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Scott O'donnell v. Michael J. Astrue

August 8, 2011

SCOTT O'DONNELL, PLAINTIFF
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, ELECTRONIC FILING DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Lisa Pupo Lenihan

MEMORANDUM OPINION

I. INTRODUCTION

Scott O'Donnell ("Plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking review of the final determination of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Defendant" or "Commissioner") denying his application for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income ("SSI") under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-433, 1381 - 1383f ("Act"). This matter comes before the court on cross motions for summary judgment. (ECF Nos. 8, 10). The record has been developed at the administrative level. For the following reasons, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED, in part, and DENIED, in part, and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED.

II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff filed for DIB and SSI with the Social Security Administration on November 21, 2007, claiming an inability to work due to disability beginning August 1, 2007. (R. at 78 -- 82).*fn1 Plaintiff was initially denied benefits on July 10, 2008. (R. at 54 -- 62). A hearing was scheduled for February 17, 2010, and Plaintiff appeared to testify represented by counsel. (R. at 20). A vocational expert also testified. (R. at 20). The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") issued his decision denying benefits to Plaintiff on March 29, 2010. (R. at 6 -- 19). Plaintiff filed a request for review of the ALJ's decision by the Appeals Council, which request was denied on September 19, 2010, thereby making the decision of the ALJ the final decision of the Commissioner. (R. at 1 -- 3).

Plaintiff filed his Complaint in this court on November 5, 2010. (ECF No. 2). Defendant filed his Answer on January 20, 2011. (ECF No. 3). Cross motions for summary judgment followed. (ECF Nos. 8, 10).

III. STATEMENT OF THE CASE

A. General Background

Plaintiff was born on October 1, 1974, and was thirty five*fn2 years of age at the time of his administrative hearing. (R. at 78 -- 82). Plaintiff was divorced, with children. (R. at 28, 148). He did not have custody, however. (R. at 28). Plaintiff lived with his parents. (R. at 23, 28). He progressed no farther than an eighth grade education.*fn3 (R. at 23). Plaintiff had been enrolled in special education classes while in school. (R. at 34). Plaintiff was last employed three to four years prior to his hearing. (R. at 23).

B. Medical/Psychiatric History

In September of 1994, Plaintiff was examined by psychologist James McCabe. (R. at 138 -- 40). Dr. McCabe administered two tests to determine Plaintiff's level of intellectual functioning. (R. at 138 -- 40). Plaintiff received a verbal IQ score of 72, and performance IQ score of 71, and full scale IQ score of 71. (R. at 138 -- 40). These scores placed Plaintiff in the "Mildly Retarded range." (R. at 138 -- 40). Plaintiff's reading, spelling, and arithmetic skills were at the third grade level. (R. at 138 -- 40). Plaintiff exhibited moderately retarded long term memory and logical thought processes. (R. at 138 -- 40). Dr. McCabe concluded that Plaintiff would be unable to achieve goals within reasonable time limits, maintain good on-task behavior without close supervision, and would require assistance in managing personal finances. (R. at 138 -- 40).

Dr. McCabe also performed a psychiatric activities assessment in October of 1994. (R. at 141 -- 44). Plaintiff was found to be capable of simple cleaning, shopping, and cooking, could use public transit, and maintained fair personal grooming and hygiene. (R. at 141 -- 44). He did not pay his bills or help to maintain his residence. (R. at 141 -- 44). Plaintiff was able to get along well with others, but had difficulty initiating social contacts. (R. at 141 -- 44). He also had no interest in group activities. (R. at 141 -- 44). He was found to be in the fair to good range in terms of his ability to communicate clearly, exhibit social maturity, interact with peers, and interact with the public. (R. at 141 -- 44). Plaintiff was found to be capable of following simple instructions and making decisions, but had a poor ability to perform at a consistent pace, sustain a routine, finish a task, and perform within a schedule without supervision. (R. at 141 -- 44).

Finally, Dr. McCabe noted that in stressful situations, Plaintiff had a fair ability to adapt to changes, react to deadlines, make decisions, and exhibit awareness of normal hazards and take appropriate precautions. (R. at 141 -- 44). However, his reaction to conflict and his ability to maintain regular attendance was poor. (R. at 141 -- 44).

Psychologist Daniel Moore performed an examination of Plaintiff for the Pennsylvania Bureau of Disability Determination on October 27, 2005. (R. at 145 -- 66). Plaintiff appeared for the evaluation neatly and cleanly ...


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