ST. LOUIS — A federal judge for the Eastern District of Missouri has upheld a finding that denied Social Security disability benefits to a Florissant man.
U.S. District Judge John Bodenhausen on June 14 affirmed an administrative law judge's ruling three years ago that turned down Jarvis Keith Potter's request for benefits following an April 19, 2013, auto accident.
Potter had claimed the car crash caused injuries to his brain, lungs and back.
The ruling states that a month after he was involved in the accident, he applied for disability. On Oct. 22, 2013, his claims were denied upon initial consideration.
What followed were a series of proceedings, first before an administrative law judge in May 2014, when he and a vocational expert testified.
The administrative law judge ruled the next month that Potter was not disabled and denied benefits.
Potter then sought review of the administrative law judge's decision in front of the Appeals Council of the Social Security Administration, which denied review in October 2015.
Following that denial, he sought relief in federal court.
In his appeal, he argued that the administrative law judge erred by failing to give any weight to his low Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) score.
The GAF is a scale from 0-100 in which higher scores indicate greater levels of functioning. Optimal mental health and coping capabilities are represented by scores in the 91-100 range. People with mild psychological problems fall in the 71-90 range, according to mentalhelp.com.
Potter also claimed that the administrative law judge failed to take into account "serious psychological impairments."
The ruling states that in response, the Social Security commissioner argued that "substantial evidence" was relied upon by the administrative law judge.
The administrative law judge had followed a "familiar" five-step analysis in reaching its decision, Bodenhausen wrote.
First, the administrative law judge found Potter had not engaged in substantial gainful activity from the time of the onset of the alleged disability.
Secondly, the administrative law judge determined the nature of his medical condition; at the third step, the administrative law judge found Potter "did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments," the ruling states.
At step four, the administrative law judge found that he was not capable of returning this his past work as a bank loan processor.
In the final fifth step, the administrative law judge found that "considering Plaintiff’s age (in his 30s), education (college graduate), work experience, and residual functional capacity, Plaintiff is capable of making a transition to other work in the national economy."