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Decker v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

January 7, 2015

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, [1] Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


CYNTHIA REED EDDY, Magistrate Judge.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Robert Decker ("Decker") brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner" or "Defendant") denying his application for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act ("Act"). See 42 U.S.C §§ 401-434. Each party has submitted cross motions for summary judgment, (ECF Nos. 8 and 10), and the record has been fully developed at the administrative proceedings. For the reasons which follow, Decker's Motion for Summary Judgment, (ECF No. 8), will be granted, and the Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment, (ECF No. 10), will be denied. The decision of the Commissioner is vacated, and the matter remanded to the Commissioner for further proceedings in accordance with this Memorandum Opinion.

II. Procedural History

Decker protectively filed for DIB on August 16, 2011, alleging onset of disability on November 1, 2009. (R. at 175-181).[2] The applications were denied by the state agency on April 11, 2012. (R. at 135-39). Decker responded on May 25, 2012, by filing a timely request for an administrative hearing. (R. at 140). On April 8, 2013, an administrative hearing was held in Johnstown, Pennsylvania before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Paula Wordsworth. (R. at 34-69). Decker, who was represented by counsel, appeared and testified. Id. Additionally, an impartial vocational expert, Linda L. Dezack, testified at the hearing. Id.

In her decision dated April 25, 2013, the ALJ determined that Decker was not "disabled" within the meaning of the Act since Decker's alleged onset of disability, so his claims for disability benefits were denied. (R. at 14-33). The Appeals Counsel denied Decker's request for review on February 1, 2014, thereby making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner in this case. (R. at 1-4).

Decker commenced the present action on April 4, 2014, seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's decision. (ECF No. 3). Decker and the Commissioner filed cross motions for summary judgment on August 28, 2014 and September 29, 2014, respectively. (ECF Nos. 8, 10). These motions are fully briefed and ripe for disposition.

III. Statement of Facts

A. Background

Decker was born on December 7, 1960, and was 52 years old at the time of the administrative hearing. (R. at 195). He completed high school, (R. at 41), and subsequently worked as a shipping clerk, groundskeeper, building repairman, wastewater treatment trainer/sales person, and home remodeler. (R. at 81-83). From November 2009 to September 2011, Decker ran his own light construction company. ( Id. ). Thereafter, Decker's sole gainful activity has consisted of cutting grass with a riding lawnmower for an elderly neighbor once per month, at a rate of $30 per occasion. (R. at 39-40).

B. Medical History

Following an accident in 1984 in which he fell over twenty feet from a tree while trimming it, landing on his hands and knees, (R. at 42, 824), Decker has suffered from multiple resulting physical difficulties, including problems with his knees, arms, and back, and headaches. (R. at 42-46). Additionally, Decker has been diagnosed as having gastroesophageal reflux disease ("GERD") since at least 2006. (R. at 379). However, because Decker does not raise any issues as to the ALJ's findings regarding his physical impairments, his treatment of the same is irrelevant to this appeal.

Decker also has a history of treatment for depression and anxiety. Decker apparently treated with a psychiatrist approximately three years after his accident because he was "extremely depressed" due to his injuries and chronic pain issues. (R. at 541). However, the record does not contain any medical records from these sessions.

On January 26, 2005, Decker was diagnosed with a "depressive disorder", by his primary care physician, Dr. Andrew Cash. (R. at 283). Dr. Cash initially prescribed Lexapro to treat Decker's depression in April of 2006, (R. at 369), which he then switched to Wellbutrin later that year, (R. at 363). Dr. Cash also prescribed Tranxene in late 2006 for Decker's anxiety (R. at 47, 353). Dr. Cash was solely responsible for the treatment of Decker's depression and anxiety until August ...

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