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McCormick v. Colvin

United States District Court, Third Circuit

May 21, 2013

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


CATHY BISSOON, District Judge.


It is respectfully recommended that the Court deny Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, grant Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, and affirm the decision of the administrative law judge ("ALJ").



1. Procedural History

Janet McCormick ("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 her 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 (the "Act"). Plaintiff filed for benefits claiming an inability to work due to disability beginning December 24, 2007. (R. at 32, 116-29).[1] Plaintiff's alleged disabling impairments initially included depression and anxiety. (R. at 144). Having exhausted all administrative remedies, this matter now comes before the Court on cross motions for summary judgment. (ECF Nos. 7, 11).

2. Personal Background

Plaintiff was born on April 4, 1967, and was forty three years of age at the time of her administrative hearing. (R. at 34). Plaintiff lived alone in her own apartment. (R. at 33, 49, 51-52). Plaintiff had adult children and a young grandson. (R. at 46). She was separated from her husband of twenty-five years. (R. at 45). She indicated that she had not yet sought a divorce because she lacked adequate funds. (R. at 35).

Plaintiff dropped out of school at the age of fourteen due to pregnancy, having only completed the sixth grade. (R. at 36-37). Plaintiff did not return to school, nor did she attempt to obtain a graduate equivalent diploma ("GED") or vocational training. (R. at 37). She was a stay-at-home mother until 1999, when she entered the workforce. (R. at 40-41). Her employment included initially working for an in-home care service for the elderly, and beginning in 2002, working at a nursing home as a housekeeper. (R. at 38-40). Plaintiff was last employed briefly by K-mart as a cashier, which employment ended in December 2007. (R. at 38). Plaintiff quit her job at K-mart because she could not deal with other people. (R. at 283). Thereafter, Plaintiff subsisted on cash assistance and food stamps, and some aid from family members. (R. at 49). She also received healthcare coverage through the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. (R. at 49).

3. Treatment History

Plaintiff underwent a psychiatric evaluation with Lenora Borucki, C.R.N.P. of Chestnut Ridge Counseling Services ("Chestnut Ridge") on September 30, 2008. (R. at 259-60). It was noted in the evaluation that Plaintiff had begun treatment for depressed mood in 2007 at Chestnut Ridge, but that she failed to take prescribed medications as advised, and failed to continue with recommended treatment between December 2007 and September 2008. (R. at 259-60, 268). Plaintiff complained of significant depression, anxiety, and worried thinking. (R. at 259-60). She claimed to have occasional panic attacks, increased irritability, and angry outbursts. (R. at 259-60). Plaintiff experienced difficulty with sleeplessness, fatigue, and concentration. (R. at 259-60). She had a passive death wish, and was easily tearful. (R. at 259-60). Plaintiff had once attempted self-harm by overdosing on Lexapro. (R. at 259-60). She denied past hospitalization for psychiatric reasons, and stated that she had not tried to harm herself since the overdose. (R. at 259-60).

Nurse practitioner Borucki noted that Plaintiff had first come to Chestnut Ridge following separation from her husband. (R. at 259-60). The refusal of her husband to reconcile triggered her depressed state. (R. at 259-60). It was also noted that Plaintiff had little education, and had become pregnant at fourteen years of age. (R. at 259-60). Her children were adults, and while she maintained a relationship with her daughter, she was estranged from her son. (R. at 259-60). Borucki observed Plaintiff to be depressed, anxious, slow, and tearful, but nonetheless exhibiting alertness, orientation, connection to reality, and logical, goal-oriented thought. (R. at 259-60). She diagnosed Plaintiff with major depression, and passive dependent personality disorder, and recorded a global assessment of functioning[2] ("GAF") score of 48. (R. at 259-60). Plaintiff was prescribed Prozac and individual therapy. (R. at 259-60).

A clinical progress note dated October 17, 2008, showed that Plaintiff was adhering to her Prozac regimen, but still reported some depression and anxiety. (R. at 267). Plaintiff was informed that it was still too early to discern if the Prozac was working. (R. at 267). Plaintiff denied experiencing racing thoughts, visual or audible disturbances, hallucinations, delusions, and suicidal ideation. (R. at ...

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