United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
LAWRENCE G.M. O'BRIEN, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN,  Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
WILLIAM J. NEALON, District Judge.
The above-captioned action is one seeking review of a decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying Plaintiff Lawrence G.M. O'Brien's claim for social security disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. (Doc. 1).
O'Brien filed an Application for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits and an Application for Supplemental Security Income on October 23, 2007, alleging disability beginning on June 8, 2007. Tr. 260-266. On March 20, 2008, both applications were initially disapproved by the Bureau of Disability Determination on March 20, 2008. Tr. 184-192. On April 4, 2008, O'Brien requested a hearing before an administrative law judge. Tr. 195-198. A hearing was held before administrative law judge, Sridhar Boinin, on May 27, 2009. Tr. 101-163. On June 10, 2009, the administrative law judge ("ALJ") issued a decision that O'Brien was not disabled. Tr. 168-178. Upon request from O'Brien made August 17, 2009, however, the Appeals Council, on January 23, 2010, remanded the matter to the ALJ for resolution of specific issues. Tr. 180-183. Specifically, the ALJ was to: (1) consider the functional impact of O'Brien's obesity; (2) determine how often O'Brien will need to change between sitting and standing; (3) adequately evaluate the treating source opinion of Dr. Saxon; and (4) clarify the date last insured. Tr. 181-182.
A second hearing was held before ALJ, Sridhar Boini, on September 8, 2010. Tr. 39-81. On September 29, 2010, the ALJ issued a decision denying O'Brien's application. Tr. 22-34. On October 29, 2010, O'Brien filed a request for review which was denied by the Appeals Council on February 17, 2012. Tr. 1-3 & 20-21. Thus, the ALJ's decision stood as the final decision of the Commissioner.
O'Brien then filed a complaint in this Court on April 20, 2012. (Doc. 1). On June 27, 2012, Defendant filed an answer and transcript of the entire record of proceedings. (Docs. 7 & 8). Supporting and opposing briefs were submitted and the appeal became ripe for disposition on December 4, 2012. (Docs. 11, 14-15).
O'Brien is a thirty-five (35) year old male, born on April 29, 1979, whose education level is approximately thirteen (13) years of education (completion of approximately one year of college). Tr. 46-47, 67. O'Brien has never been able to hold a job for very long. TR. 64-65. Following high school, O'Brien worked at Herr's Potato Chips for approximately three (3) years. Tr. 65. O'Brien has past relevant work experience as a warehouse worker (medium duty, unskilled). Tr. 67. Records indicate he also worked as a "certified nurses aid" at a "skilled nursing home" at which "[he] provided personal and physical care to ill patients." Tr. 277 & 279.
Disability insurance benefits are paid to an individual if that individual is disabled and "insured, " that is, the individual has worked long enough and paid social security taxes. The last date that a claimant meets the requirements of being insured is commonly referred to as the "date last insured." O'Brien meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through March 31, 2012. Tr. 27.
O'Brien claims that he suffers from residuals of a left foot injury, obesity, bipolar disorder, attention deficit disorder, and depression which the ALJ found to be severe. (Doc. 11, p. 3), citing Tr. 28. O'Brien maintains that the ALJ's finding, that he remained able to perform other work in the national economy based on his residual functional capacity, did not include the limitations assessed by his own consultative psychologist whose opinion was corroborated by the treating psychiatrist. (Doc. 11, p. 3), citing Tr. 385-86 & 506-09.
For the reasons set forth below, the decision of the Commissioner denying O'Brien's application for disability insurance benefits will be reversed and the matter will be remanded to the Commissioner.
STANDARD OF REVIEW AND SEQUENTIAL EVALUATION PROCESS
Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and relevant case law, the court is limited to reviewing the administrative record to determine whether the decision of the Commissioner is supported by substantial evidence. Counsel for the parties are familiar with the five-step sequential evaluation process that the Commissioner utilizes and the substantial evidence standard of review.
MEDICAL RECORDS AND OTHER EVIDENCE
On October 3, 2007, O'Brien treated at Community Counseling Services of Northeastern Pennsylvania ("CCS") and complained of a short attention span irritability, and explosivity. Tr. 536-37. On November 1, 2007 he also complained of a explosive personality. Tr. 534. On December 24, 2007, Mark Puffenberger, M.D. noted ...