Submitted: January 17, 2019
from United States District Court for the Eastern District of
Arkansas - Jonesboro Division
LOKEN, GRASZ, and STRAS, Circuit Judges.
Bagwell appeals the district court's judgment that the
Social Security Administration ("SSA")
Commissioner's decision to deny him disability benefits
was supported by substantial evidence. We affirm.
December 2014, Dwain Bagwell applied for disability benefits
from the SSA, alleging mild intellectual disability, low
education, slow learning abilities, and memory problems.
After the SSA denied his claim initially and on
reconsideration, he requested a hearing before an
administrative law judge ("ALJ"). The ALJ found
Bagwell had three severe impairments: arthropathies, obesity,
and depressive disorder. The ALJ also found that neither
those impairments individually nor the combination of them
were severe enough to satisfy the criteria for disability
benefits under SSA regulations. Then, the ALJ concluded
Bagwell's residual functional capacity allowed him to
perform light, unskilled work with some further restrictions.
Because testimony from a vocational expert indicated such
jobs are available in the United States economy, the ALJ
found Bagwell was not under a disability as defined by the
Social Security Act.
ALJ's decision was based, in relevant part, on reviewing
reports from several witnesses. Two of these key witnesses
were mental health experts. Dr. Vickie Caspall performed a
psychological examination of Bagwell at the request of the
SSA. She opined that he was moderately depressed but was not
functioning in the intellectual disability range. At
Bagwell's request, he was also evaluated by Dr. Herman
Clements of Hometown Behavioral Health. Dr. Clements
diagnosed Bagwell with bipolar disorder and opined that
Bagwell had marked mental impairments.
Social Security Appeals Council denied Bagwell's petition
for review, making the ALJ's decision the
Commissioner's final administrative decision. Bagwell
filed a complaint in the Eastern District of Arkansas seeking
review. The district court affirmed the Commissioner's
decision, and Bagwell timely appealed.
Standard of Review
review de novo the district court's decision affirming
the denial of social security benefits and will affirm
"if the Commissioner's decision is supported by . .
. substantial evidence on the record as a whole."
Ash v. Colvin, 812 F.3d 686, 689 (8th Cir. 2016)
(quoting McNamara v. Astrue, 590 F.3d 607, 610 (8th
Cir. 2010)). "Substantial evidence is less than a
preponderance, but is enough that a reasonable mind would
find it adequate to support the Commissioner's
conclusion." Id. (quoting McKinney v.
Apfel, 228 F.3d 860, 863 (8th Cir. 2000)). If the record
supports two inconsistent conclusions, this court must affirm
the Commissioner's choice among those two conclusions.
Id. at 689-90.
ALJ's assessment that Bagwell is only moderately
intellectually limited, rather than intellectually disabled,
is supported by substantial evidence in the
record. Dr. Caspall specifically opined that
Bagwell's only mental limitation was a mild form of major
depressive disorder. She did not find that Bagwell was
intellectually disabled. While Dr. Clements found significant
mental disabilities, the ALJ rejected his opinion because he
appeared to take Bagwell's complaints at face value
without testing for malingering or otherwise complying with
SSA standards for ascertaining disability. The ALJ also noted
that Bagwell's mental conditions appeared controllable
with medicine, which weighs against a finding of
disability. Under the applicable standard of review,
we cannot see how crediting Dr. Caspall's opinion over
Dr. Clements's opinion would make the ALJ's decision
unsupported by substantial evidence. Even if Bagwell's
arguments against crediting Dr. Caspall's opinion have
merit, failures in Dr. Caspall's opinion do not mean that
the ALJ was required to agree with Dr. Clements's
opinion. At best, Bagwell has shown that the ALJ picked
between two potentially flawed expert opinions in a limited
record, which does not satisfy his burden of proof here.
Thus, we agree with the district court that the ALJ's
judgment was supported by substantial evidence.
the ALJ's decision was supported by substantial evidence,
Bagwell's other argument about the ALJ's failure to
consider whether he met the criteria for intellectual
disability in Listing 12.05C has no merit. In order to
satisfy Listing 12.05C, as it existed at the time of his
application, Bagwell needed to show (1) a "significantly
subaverage general intellectual functioning with deficits in
adaptive functioning manifested . . . before age 22,"
(2) "[a] valid verbal, performance, or full scale IQ of
60 through 70," and (3) "a physical or other mental
impairment imposing an additional and significant work
related limitation of function." 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404,
Subpt. P, App. 1 § 12.05 (2016). Even if Bagwell had a
valid IQ score in the record (which the parties dispute), he
cannot meet the other criteria for deficits in adaptive
functioning or significant work related limitations in light
of the ALJ's findings about his intellectual capacity.
The ALJ could not have erred by failing to address listings
that were unsupported by ...