The Fourth Circuit’s sole published opinion today came in Hancock v. Astrue, in which a panel of the Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of an application for supplemental security income (“SSI”). Chief Judge Traxler wrote the opinion, in which Judge Shedd and Judge Floyd joined (a South Carolina trifecta).
The appeal focused on the applicant’s cognitive functioning. Chief Judge Traxler wrote:
The only issue on appeal is whether the ALJ erred by concluding that Hancock’s level of cognitive functioning did not meet or equal the listed impairment for mental retardation, Listing 12.05. Listing 12.05 requires a showing of “deficits in adaptive functioning initially manifested during the developmental period; i.e., the evidence demonstrates or supports onset of the impairment before age 22” (“Prong 1”). Listing 12.05 also requires the satisfaction of one of four additional requirements identified as Requirements A-D. At issue in this case was Requirement C, which requires “[a] valid verbal, performance, or full scale IQ of 60 through 70” (“Prong 2”), as well as “a physical or other mental impairment imposing an additional and significant work-related limitation of function” (“Prong 3”).
The ALJ found that Hancock did not establish any of the three prongs of Listing 12.05C. Although Hancock argues that the ALJ erred with regard to his findings as to each of the three prongs, the Commissioner does not contest Hancock’s ability to establish Prong 3. Therefore, we are left to consider whether substantial evidence existed to support the ALJ’s findings with respect to Prongs 1 and 2.
The court affirmed the ALJ’s rejection of an IQ score, based on the ALJ’s assessment of the inconsistency between the findings of the consultative psychologist, Dr. Joseph Appollo, and evidence of the applicant’s actual functioning and notes of treating psychiatrists.
The court also affirmed the ALJ’s conclusion that the applicant had no deficits in adaptive functioning:
In finding no deficits in adaptive functioning generally, the ALJ concluded that “the claimant has worked several jobs and performed a variety of tasks which would be expected to be beyond the capacity of a mentally retarded person.” A.R. 19. With regard to past jobs, the ALJ found that Hancock previously worked as a battery assembler and a drop clipper. [footnote omitted] With regard to tasks, the ALJ noted that Hancock has the ability to shop, pay bills, and make change; that she takes care of three small grandchildren at a level of care that satisfies the Department of Social Services; that she does the majority of her household’s chores, including cooking and baking; that she is attending school to obtain a GED; and that she does puzzles for entertainment. We believe this evidence was sufficient to support the ALJ’s conclusion that Hancock had no deficits in adaptive functioning.