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Johnson v. Colvin

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

June 11, 2015

Katherine Johnson, Plaintiff - Appellant
v.
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant - Appellee

Submitted: April 14, 2015.

Appeal from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas - Helena.

For Katherine Johnson, Plaintiff - Appellant: Anthony W. Bartels, Attorney, Jonesboro, AR; Eugene Gregory Wallace, Campbell University School of Law, Raleigh, NC.

For Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant - Appellee: M. Hasan Aijaz, Mark Jarrett Kingsolver, Michael McGaughran, Assistant Regional Counsel, Social Security Administration, Office of General Counsel Region VI, Dallas, TX; Stacey E. McCord, Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Arkansas, Little Rock, AR.

Before RILEY, Chief Judge, LOKEN and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 871

RILEY, Chief Judge.

Katherine Johnson appeals after the district court[1] affirmed the Social Security Administration's (SSA) denial of Johnson's application for supplemental security income (SSI). See 42 U.S.C. § 1381 et seq. Because there is substantial evidence supporting the administrative law judge's (ALJ) conclusion that Johnson was not disabled under the Social Security Act, see id. § 1382c, we affirm.[2]

I. BACKGROUND

Johnson suffers from a number of severe impairments, including chronic asthma, morbid obesity, borderline intellectual functioning, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Most relevant to this appeal is whether Johnson has an intellectual disability, as defined by the SSA. See 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1 § 12.05.[3]

At the request of the SSA, Charles M. Spellmann, Ph.D., examined Johnson on May 25, 2010. After conducting a series of cognitive tests, Dr. Spellmann reported Johnson was not " functioning within or near the mentally retarded range." He observed Johnson could " sustain concentration and persistence in completing tasks" and " cope with the cognitive demands of work like tasks," and any of Johnson's " [m]ental impairments d[id] not significantly interfere with her day to day adaptive functioning."

To determine Johnson's eligibility for Vocational Rehabilitation Services, Michael Nicholas, Ph.D., conducted a psychological evaluation of Johnson on July 12, 2010. Dr. Nicholas performed a series of cognitive tests, including the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Fourth Edition intelligence quotient (IQ) test. Dr. Nicholas concluded Johnson had a verbal comprehension IQ of 61, a perceptual reasoning IQ of 79, a working memory IQ of 66, a processing speed IQ of 81, and a full scale IQ of 67. " Based on these scores," Dr. Nicholas decided " a Mild Mental Retardation diagnosis [wa]s warranted." Even so, Dr. Nicholas observed that Johnson's " thought process and content [were] clear and coherent," and " [h]er concentration and attention were intact." Dr. Nicholas suggested Johnson " be encouraged to find employment in an occupation that is mechanical in nature, as she showed strength on tasks that require ability to analyze and synthesize abstract stimuli."

Between June 2010 and February 2011, Johnson occasionally attended counseling. Johnson's counselors estimated she was of " low average" intelligence and education, and diagnosed her as having " ...


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