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Halverson v. Astrue

April 2, 2010

KIMBERLY A. HALVERSON, APPELLANT,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, APPELLEE.



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

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bye, Circuit Judge.

Submitted: January 14, 2010

Before MURPHY and BYE, Circuit Judges, and GOLDBERG,*fn1 Judge.

Kimberly Halverson appeals the district court's*fn2 order affirming the decision of an administrative law judge (ALJ) denying her claim for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434. Halverson contends the ALJ improperly discounted medical evidence favoring her claim, erred in assessing her credibility, and improperly rejected her supplemental evidence. We affirm.

I.

Kimberly Halverson was born in 1961. She has two years of education beyond high school and has worked as a receptionist, waitress, administrative clerk, and bill sorter. On June 16, 2004, Halverson filed for disability benefits, citing a disability onset date of September 25, 2003, and alleging she was disabled due to depression, anxiety, and agoraphobia.*fn3

Since 2001, Halverson has been treated by various mental healthcare professionals for psychological and emotional problems reaching back to her childhood. According to Halverson, she grew up in a chaotic home with a mother who was neglectful, abusive and violent. She was required to tend to her own basic needs from a young age and to assume the role of parent for her younger sibling. She stated they would go without food for days at a time because her mother neglected to buy food. Halverson also recounted a series of abusive incidents, including being beaten for eating toast after school, being held down by her mother and threatened with a knife held to her throat, and watching her mother hold a loaded gun to a neighbor's head. Halverson also asserts she was sexually abused by a babysitter when she was five years old. As a result of these events, Halverson suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalized anxiety disorder, and major depressive disorder.

From January 2002 through July 2003, Halverson received mental health counseling from Richard Joens, LISW. During this time, Joens assessed Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF)*fn4 scores between 57 and 59. Halverson reported she visited a friend and visited a co-worker at the co-worker's home. In May 2003, Halverson reported she "hate[d]" her job and the next month she went shopping as a distraction from the "drudgery" of her job. In July 2003, Halverson stated she was "relieved" to be spending time away from work.

On July 12, 2003, Halverson saw her treating psychiatrist Wesley D. Richardson, D.O., and reported "some" insomnia, but a mental status examination revealed no abnormalities and her mood was "relatively good." On September 18, 2003, she returned to Dr. Richardson, expressed concern over weight gain, and stated she had joined the gym at work. Halverson stated she "always [felt] dull," but Dr. Richardson noted she was alert and oriented with "good" grooming, normal speech, and normal thought processes. Dr. Richardson diagnosed generalized anxiety disorder with a GAF score of 60.

On October 1, 2003, Halverson reported being involved in a motor vehicle accident while on her way to a friend's house after work. She also reported being upset since her pet bird died, and was "stressed out" about her son who was recently released from prison and had been having seizures. On examination, Halverson's mood was "sad" but she was alert and oriented with "good" grooming, normal speech, and normal thought processes. Dr. Richardson assessed a GAF score of 52.

The next day, Halverson saw Joens and reported she was on leave from work under the Family Medical Leave Act for a month and attempting to qualify for short-term disability payments from her employer. Joens recommended she also apply for Social Security disability benefits. Halverson continued to receive mental health counseling from Joens through April 2006. During this period, Joens assessed GAF scores between 52 and 58.

On March 10, 2004, Halverson began mental health counseling with Alice Harberts, LISW. Harberts noted she "looked very nice," was "well dressed," and wearing make-up. Halverson saw Dr. Richardson a few times over the next several weeks, reporting varying moods and motivation levels. Dr. Richardson assessed GAF scores between 55 and 60.

On April 21, 2004, she told Harberts she had "mixed feelings" about applying for Social Security disability benefits. Halverson stated she needed the money but wanted to get better and return to work at "some point." Harberts noted she was "well groomed" and cooperative.

On July 8, 2004, she reported planning a camping trip with a friend. Halverson also stated she had "reached out" to some of the women who lived by her. Harberts also noted improvement in Halverson's condition. Three weeks later, Halverson reported joining the YMCA and had an appointment with a personal trainer. Harberts noted Halverson was "well" groomed and goal directed.

On September 27, 2004, she reported financial problems due to overspending. She had gained weight and had to purchase new clothes. Halverson stated she "always" ran out of money before her next check came and had to ask for loans from a friend. Harberts suggested she find places to "cut back" her spending. In October 2004, Halverson stated she had been denied Social Security disability benefits and reported increased anxiety. She had not gone to the YMCA yet because she did not trust people and did not believe she could be safe around them.

In February 2005, Halverson stated she had recently broken her leg after falling on ice. She described her living situation with her roommate as "horrible." Harberts noted Halverson was "well" groomed and seemed motivated to make changes once she recovered from her broken leg. Harberts opined her depression and ...


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