United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
MAURICE B. COHILL, Jr., Senior District Judge.
Pending before this Court is an appeal from the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner" or "Defendant") denying the claims of Samantha Miller ("Plaintiff' or "Claimant") for benefits under Title II ("Social Security Disability Income")("SSDI") and Title XVI ("Supplemental Security Income")("SSI") of the Social Security Act, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1382(c)(3) (2013). Plaintiff argues that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") was not supported by substantial evidence of record as required by 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) [See ECF No.9 at 3]. As such the Plaintiff requests that benefits be awarded to Plaintiff or in the alternative the case be remanded.
To the contrary, Defendant argues that the ALJ properly evaluated the entire record and determined that, despite numerous severe impairments, Plaintiff is able to meet the basic mental demands of competitive work [ECF No. 11 at 1]. Defendant states substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision that Plaintiff did not meet the statutory standard for entitlement to SSI [ECF No. 11 at 1]. Therefore, the ALJ's decision should be affirmed. The parties have filed cross motions for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
The Court has reviewed the record in its entirety and for the reasons stated below we will deny the Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment and grant the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.
II. Procedural History
The Plaintiff tiled applications for SSDI and SSI on February 9, 2010 (R. at 13) alleging disability since February 5, 2010, due to seizure disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, borderline intellectual functioning, and personality disorder (R. at 13). Plaintiffs claims were denied at the initial level of the administrative review process on June 18, 2010 (R. at 13). On July 29, 2010 Plaintiff requested a hearing (R. at 13). ALJ Alfred J. Costanzo conducted a de novo hearing on October 21, 2011 (R. at 13). Present at the hearing was Vocational Expert (VE), Samuel E. Edelmann (R. at 13). On November 7, 2011, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not disabled under the Social Security Act (R. at 10-21). The Plaintiff filed a timely written request for review by the Appeals Council which was denied on May 9, 2013 (R. at 1-5), making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Acting Commissioner. An appeal was subsequently tiled by Plaintiff who seeks our review of the ALJ's decision.
Ill. Medical History
On March 11, 2005 a Psychiatric Evaluation was performed because Plaintiff overdosed on her anti-depressant medication; Plaintiff did not believe her medication was working (R. at 183). Patient reports being very angry and believes that she is at severe risk of hurting herself, her children, or her fiance CR. at 183). Her GAF Score at the time of this evaluation was a 25 (R. at 184).
On November 5, 2008 Plaintiff underwent a Clinical Psychological Disability Evaluation performed by Julie Uran, Ph.D. (R. at 185-188). Dr. Uran's diagnosis was Bipolar I Disorder, Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia, Social Phobia, Nicotine Dependence, Borderline Personality Disorder, Borderline Intellectual Functioning, Significant Stressors, and a GAF of 50 CR. at 188). The Prognosis was deemed to be poor in terms of higher level functioning and personality integration. Dr. Uram stated learning problems will continue for Plaintiff CR. at 188).
Another Psychological Report was performed on November 14, 2008 by Martin Meyer, Ph.D. and Julie Uran, Ph.D. CR. at 193-98). In this report it is noted that Plaintiff has functional limitations in the areas of depression, anxiety, tactile processing, auditory discrimination, psychomotor speed, attentional processes, expressive language, borderline intelligence, immediate auditory recall, and higher level reasoning CR. at 198). The Doctors recommend case management, mental health support, psychiatric monitoring, and deferral to social security disability CR. at 198).
On August 5, 2009 another Psychological Evaluation was performed by Psychologists Dr. Meyer and Dr. Uran (R. at 241-46). Plaintiff's diagnosis was Bipolar Disorder, PTSD, mathematics disorder, caffeine abuse, nicotine dependence, Borderline Intellectual Functioning, Personality Disorder, strabismus, seizure activity, moderate stressors, and a GAF of 55 CR. at 245). In this report it is noted that Plaintiff said her emotional status is "better... trying to make life better." CR. at 242). Plaintiff was found to have functional limiations in the following areas: Intelligence, slow learning capability, calculation abilities, general fund of vocabulary, higher level language-based reasoning, information recall, rapid fine motor dexterity, social judgment, non-verbal abstract reasoning, language usage, poor coping skills and poor insight (R. at 244-45). It was recommended that Plaintiff engage in hands-on learning, screening for job coaching assistance, mental health supports, case management, medication management, avoidance of vocational activities involving social interaction, avoidance of academically laden tasks, medical consultation for suitability for employment, medical attention for stress-related seizures, and reduce caffeine intake (R. at 245). Possible jobs noted were animal caretaker, kennel attendant, animal ride attendant, dog groomer, park worker, packaging, labeling, sorting, food assembly, kitchen helper, dishwasher, dry cleaner, and spot remover (R. at 245).
The record contains various Stairways appointment notes dating back to 2009 and a "Treating Medical Source Statement - Regarding the Nature and Severity of an Individual's Mental Impairments" was completed as recently as September 21, 2011 by Dr. Qureshi, Plaintiff's treating physician at Stairways. The doctors at Stairways treated her with therapy and medication with reported success, though there were frequent changes in the medicines prescribed due to remaining symptoms of depression and anxiety. As of October 28, 2008 Plaintiff was given a GAF of 55. In a February 2, 2010 report Plaintiff is having difficulty sleeping and reports 4 hours of sleep per night (R. at 270). In a report dated June 11, 2010 Plaintiff reports sleeping 7-8 hours per night (R. at 271).
In Dr. Qureshi's 2011 "Treating Medical Source Statement - Regarding the Nature and Severity of an Individual's Mental impairments" report, he opined that the Plaintiff had slight to moderate limitations in her ability to do numerous work-related activities, such as interacting with others, responding to work pressures, and responding to changes (R. at 179; 327-28). Most areas of assessment were within normal limits, however, there is notation of labile mood and moderate anxiety. He stated that Plaintiff would be unable to complete lout of 5 days of work per week and would require 1 to 4 unscheduled breaks in excess of 5 to 10 minutes due to her mental health conditions (R.at 179; 329).
On May 29, 2010 Glenn W. Thompson, Ph.D. completed a report called "Bureau of Disability Determination". This diagnosis was Bipolar I Disorder, mixed, moderate, PTSD, social phobias, Borderline Personality Disorder, significant medical stressors, significant relationship stressors, partner relational problems, lack of support network, and a GAF of 35-45 (R. at 283-84). The prognosis provided was: "It is unlikely that one could expect significant improvement in the foreseeable future. It is recommended that the claimant be aided in having more frequent contacts with a counselor or psychotherapist as well as with her psychiatrist who she sees more regularly." CR. at 284). Dr. Thompson finds Plaintiff to have marked restrictions in understanding and remembering detailed instructions and carrying out detailed instructions (R. at 285). He finds her to have extreme restrictions in making adjustments in simple ...