Dawkins v. Bowen, No. 87-7340

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore VANCE and EDMONDSON, Circuit Judges, and TUTTLE; VANCE
Citation848 F.2d 1211
Decision Date08 July 1988
Docket NumberNo. 87-7340
Parties, Unempl.Ins.Rep. CCH 14067A Evelyn Grace DAWKINS, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Otis R. BOWEN, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Defendant-Appellee.

Page 1211

848 F.2d 1211
22 Soc.Sec.Rep.Ser. 116, Unempl.Ins.Rep. CCH 14067A
Evelyn Grace DAWKINS, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Otis R. BOWEN, Secretary of the Department of Health and
Human Services, Defendant-Appellee.
No. 87-7340
United States Court of Appeals,
Eleventh Circuit.
July 8, 1988.

James Lloyd Wright, Dothan, Ala., for plaintiff-appellant.

John C. Bell, U.S. Atty., and Calvin Pryor, Asst. U.S. Atty., Montgomery, Ala., for defendant-appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.

Before VANCE and EDMONDSON, Circuit Judges, and TUTTLE, Senior Circuit Judge.

Page 1212

VANCE, Circuit Judge:

Failure to follow prescribed medical treatment disqualifies a claimant from receiving supplemental security income ("SSI") benefits. The Secretary's regulations provide a list of acceptable reasons for failure to follow prescribed treatment. In this case we add to that list and hold that a claimant's inability to afford a prescribed medical treatment excuses noncompliance.

I.

Appellant Evelyn Dawkins alleges that she is disabled and unable to work because of the combined effect of a legion of medical problems. She complains primarily of diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, impaired vision, an enlarged ventral hernia and carpal tunnel syndrome of the left wrist, 1 all complicated by obesity. In 1980 these conditions forced her from her job as a short order cook in the Chism Truck Stop in Ozark, Alabama. Over the years appellant's doctors have confirmed these various conditions, but have stated that appellant's impairments are controllable with medication and proper diet.

On September 27, 1984 appellant applied for social security disability and supplemental security income benefits. The Secretary denied her application. Appellant then applied for and received on September 17, 1985 a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. The ALJ found that appellant was not fully and currently insured under the special earnings requirements for disability insurance. See 20 C.F.R. Secs. 404.101-.133. The ALJ also determined that appellant was not entitled to SSI disability benefits because her impairments were not severe enough to preclude her from engaging in light work. 2 The district court affirmed the ALJ's denial of both claims.

II.

A.

In denying appellant SSI disability benefits, the ALJ relied primarily if not exclusively on evidence in the record and testimony at the hearing concerning appellant's noncompliance with prescribed medical treatment. Dr. Frank Crockett, who treated appellant from 1983 to 1985, examined appellant on June 19, 1984. He diagnosed a variety of ailments, many of which form the basis of her current application for benefits. Dr. Crockett reported that he recommended a gynecological examination "in regard to her continual bleeding.... She says she has been unable to afford medical follow up for this, but I feel that if she is eligible for any financial assistance medically this would clearly be helpful...." Dr. Crockett also reported:

I am not sure about the abdominal pain. A lot of this may be related to the huge ventral hernia that she has, which is one of the largest I have ever seen and may well cause problems down the road. I feel that she probably does need surgical correction of this, but again, she says her finances are her main problem. I do feel that if she could obtain assistance, she might could have some of these problems looked at, which are potentially remedial problems.

After waiting several months while appellant unsuccessfully sought insurance coverage, Dr. Robert Zumstein admitted appellant to the Dale County Hospital for corrective surgery. 3

Page 1213

Dr. Zumstein's 1985 examination reports indicate that appellant was having difficulty complying with his medical and dietary prescriptions. On February 19 Dr. Zumstein reported that appellant had run out of some of her medication. On June 18 he noted that her compliance had been poor, and that he had given her "a rather stern lecture."

At the hearing before the ALJ, appellant testified that when she ran out of the professional samples of Normodyne Dr. Zumstein gave her to control her high blood pressure, she did not have the money to refill the bottles. Appellant explained that the reason for her inconsistency in taking the prescribed medicine was that she did not always have the money to buy it. She also testified that she could not afford to pay the thirty-five dollars she needed to have her eyes examined.

The regulations provide that refusal to follow prescribed medical treatment without a good reason will preclude a finding of disability. See 20 C.F.R. Sec. 416.930(b). "A medical condition that can reasonably be remedied either by surgery, treatment, or medication is not disabling." Lovelace v. Bowen, 813 F.2d 55, 59 (5th Cir.1987) (footnote omitted); see Epps v. Harris, 624 F.2d 1267, 1270 (5th Cir.1980). In order to deny benefits on the ground of failure to follow prescribed treatment, the ALJ must find that had the claimant followed the prescribed treatment, the claimant's ability to work would have been restored. See Schnorr v. Bowen, 816 F.2d 578, 582 (11th Cir.1987); Patterson v. Bowen, 799 F.2d 1455, 1460 (11th Cir.1986). This finding must be supported by substantial evidence. Patterson, 799 F.2d at 1460; see Jones v. Heckler, 702 F.2d 950, 953 (11th Cir.1983).

The regulations also list examples of good reasons for not following prescribed treatment. 4 Although appellant does not allege any of these exceptions as an excuse for noncompliance, she does argue that her inability to afford the prescribed treatment excuses her noncompliance.

We agree with every circuit that has considered the issue that poverty excuses noncompliance. See, e.g., Lovelace, 813 F.2d at 59 ("To a poor person, a medicine that he cannot afford to buy does not exist"); Lovejoy v. Heckler, 790 F.2d 1114, 1117 (4th Cir.1986) (failure to follow prescribed treatment does not preclude reaching the conclusion that a claimant is disabled when the failure is justified by lack of funds); Dover v. Bowen, 784 F.2d 335, 337 (8th Cir.1986) ("the ALJ must consider a claimant's allegation that he has not sought treatment or used medications because of lack of finances"); Teter v. Heckler, 775 F.2d 1104, 1107 (10th Cir.1985) (inability to afford surgery does not constitute an unjustified refusal and does not preclude recovery of disability benefits). Thus while a remediable or controllable medical condition is generally not...

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382 practice notes
  • Weatherspoon v. Kijakazi, Civil Action 1:20-00075-N
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Southern District of Alabama
    • 14 Septiembre 2021
    ...find that had the claimant followed the prescribed treatment, the claimant's ability to work would have been restored.” Dawkins v. Bowen, 848 F.2d 1211, 1213 (11th Cir. 1988) (citations and quotation omitted). However, while “ ‘refusal to follow prescribed medical treatment without a good r......
  • Cruz v. Colvin, CIVIL ACTION FILE NO. 1:14-cv-03308-AJB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Georgia
    • 29 Marzo 2016
    ...the adjudicator must consider information in the case record that may explain gaps in the medical record); see also Dawkins v. Bowen, 848 F.2d 1211, 1213 (11th Cir. 1988) (" 'To a poor person, a medicine that he cannot afford to buy does not exist.' "). Here,Page 36 as the ALJ recognizes, t......
  • Ward v. Saul, CIVIL ACTION NO. 2:19-01039-N
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Alabama
    • 30 Marzo 2021
    ...a "medical condition that can reasonably be remedied either by surgery, treatment, or medication is not disabling." Dawkins v. Bowen, 848 F.2d 1211, 1213 (11th Cir. 1988) (quotation omitted). Finally, Ward claims the ALJ erroneously found she had no side effects from her medications. Howeve......
  • Brownlow v. Colvin, CIVIL ACTION NO. 15-00392-N
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Southern District of Alabama
    • 29 Febrero 2016
    ...could be resolved by treatment, which would normally support a finding of "not disabled" by the Commissioner. See Dawkins v. Bowen, 848 F.2d 1211, 1213 (11th Cir. 1988) ("The regulations provide that refusal to follow prescribed medical treatment without a good reason will preclude a findin......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
385 cases
  • Cruz v. Colvin, CIVIL ACTION FILE NO. 1:14-cv-03308-AJB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Georgia
    • 29 Marzo 2016
    ...the adjudicator must consider information in the case record that may explain gaps in the medical record); see also Dawkins v. Bowen, 848 F.2d 1211, 1213 (11th Cir. 1988) (" 'To a poor person, a medicine that he cannot afford to buy does not exist.' "). Here,Page 36 as the ALJ recognizes, t......
  • Slaten v. Saul, CIVIL ACTION NO. 1:20-00253-N
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Southern District of Alabama
    • 17 Junio 2021
    ...that his vision problems were largely controlled by the use of glasses at least prior to this examination. See Dawkins v. Bowen, 848 F.2d 1211, 1213 (11th Cir. 1988) ("A medical condition that can reasonably be remedied either by surgery, treatment, or medication is not disabling." (quotati......
  • Prince v. Kijakazi, Civil Action 1:21-00110-N
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Southern District of Alabama
    • 19 Abril 2022
    ...condition had not worsened since he stopped working, and that his seizures were largely controlled by medication. See Dawkins v. Bowen, 848 F.2d 1211, 1213 (11th Cir. 1988) (“A medical condition that can reasonably be remedied either by surgery, treatment, or medication is not disabling.” (......
  • Ware v. Kijakazi, Civil Action 1:20-00404-N
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Southern District of Alabama
    • 29 Marzo 2022
    ...to control his migraines produced variable results, and he had to discontinue some due to inability to afford them. See Dawkins v. Bowen, 848 F.2d 1211, 1213 (11th Cir. 1988) (“[P]overty excuses noncompliance … To a poor person, a medicine that he cannot afford to buy does not exist…” (quot......
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