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Wilson v. Saul

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

September 26, 2019

MELINDA WILSON, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW SAUL, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, [1] Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOSEPH M. HOOD SENIOR U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff, Melinda Wilson, brings this matter under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking judicial review of an administrative decision of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security. [DE 1]. The Court, having reviewed the record and the motions, [DE 13, 15], filed by the parties, will AFFIRM the Commissioner’s decision as no legal error occurred and it is supported by substantial evidence.

         I. STANDARD FOR DETERMINING DISABILITY

         Under the Social Security Act, a disability is defined as “inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). In determining disability, an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) uses a five-step analysis. See Jones v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 336 F.3d 469, 474 (6th Cir. 2003). Step One considers whether the claimant is still performing substantial gainful activity; Step Two, whether any of the claimant’s impairments are “severe”; Step Three, whether the impairments meet or equal a listing in the Listing of Impairments; Step Four, whether the claimant can still perform his past relevant work; and Step Five, whether significant numbers of other jobs exist in the national economy which the claimant can perform. As to the last step, the burden of proof shifts from the claimant to the Commissioner. Id.; see also Preslar v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs., 14 F.3d 1107, 1110 (6th Cir. 1994).

         II. PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL HISTORY

         On June 2, 2016, Plaintiff, Melinda Wilson, filed an application for supplemental security income (“SSI”) benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, asserting disability as of January 1, 2013. [TR 239]. The claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration. [TR 144-47, 155-57]. Wilson then pursued her claim in front of Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Greg Holsclaw on January 25, 2018. [TR 32-97, 97-108]. ALJ Holsclaw issued a decision on March 28, 2018, denying Wilson’s claims and find that she was not disabled. [TR 11-25]. The Appeals Council denied review. [TR 1–5]. This appeal followed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). [DE 1].

         Consistent with the Court’s Standing Scheduling Order, [DE 9; 11], the parties have submitted cross motions for summary judgment, which are ripe for review. [DE 13, 15].

         Wilson alleges onset of disability as of October 15, 2015. [TR 239]. Wilson was 36 years of age as of the alleged onset date. [Id.]. Wilson has a 10th grade education and a GED. [TR 258]. Wilson engaged in past relevant work as a weigher: a position medium in exertion and semi-skilled. [TR 24].

         Wilson claims disability due to a number of psychological and other impairments. [TR 13]. However, Wilson challenges only the ALJ’s findings as they relate to her alleged psychological impairments, and thus we will only discuss them. [DE 13]. In particular, Wilson claims to be disabled as a result of her depression/mood disorder/adjustment disorder/bipolar disorder; anxiety; borderline personality disorder with history of cutting; schizophrenia (without psychotic symptoms; and post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”). [TR 13-14]. Wilson testified that her primary limitations relate to her psychological issues. [TR 53].

         Wilson testified that she often lives on the streets, uses public transportation, and has no place to stay. [TR 41-46]. She testified that she is scared to leave her house due to anxiety. [TR 57]. She does not have a driver’s license as a result of a DUI some ten years ago. [TR 45]. She did not try to get her license back due to “nerve problems, anxiety.” [TR 46].

         Wilson has received mental health treatment for many years. [TR 1388]. [TR 446-463, 1002-1039, 1170-1393, 1525-1536, 1537-1550, 1591-1605, 1626-1666]. In 2015, Wilson received treatment with the Comprehensive Care Center. [TR 1257]. On December 2, 2015, she reported to the emergency room after threatening to kill herself. [TR 776]. There she reported that she was not receiving appropriate treatment and was transferred to Eastern State Hospital. [TR 381]. She was discharged three (3) days later. [TR 354]. Wilson had a “sudden turn around[, ]” and was subsequently released. [TR 351]. Afterwards, she was treated at BlueGrass Clinic for several months. [TR 467-511].

         In April 2016, Wilson received treatment, yet again, at the Comprehensive Care Center. [TR 1239]. Wilson was hospitalized at Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital in June 2016 as a result of alleged hallucinations. [TR 817]. Wilson was released on June 30, 2016, but had follow-up therapy appointments on June 30 and July 7, 2016. She was hospitalized on July 7, 2016 for attempting to overdose. [TR 871].

         Wilson received treatment from a psychologist, who prescribed Geoden to Wilson. [TR 1035]. Wilson later reported that this prescription had improved both her mood and her anxiety. [TR 1005, 1009]. In October 2016, Wilson returned to Comprehensive Care Center after learning that her sister had been murdered. [TR 1010]. As a result, that same month she was hospitalized for ten days. [TR 1104, 1123, 1129].

         Wilson was taken off her medication, [TR 1172], and ultimately stopped going to therapy. [TR 1525]. In July 2017, her treatment began again when her family doctor prescribed her Remeron and later Abilify instead of Geoden. [TR 1526-46]. In follow-up appointments, she was reported as doing well on these medications. [TR 1543, 1633, 1641, 1649, 1657, 1666]. However, on two occasions, one in September and another in October of 2017, Wilson sought treatment for her psychological conditions, but refused hospital admission. [TR 1608, 1597].

         In November 2017, she requested a referral to a psychiatrist. [TR 1626]. Wilson reported to her primary care physician that her medications were working well, though she reported hallucinations to another provider. [TR 1591, 1602].

         Drs. Jane Brake, Ph.D., and Ilze Sillers, Ph.D., reviewed the record in July and December 2016, respectively, and opined that Wilson could understand and recall simple and familiar work instructions; sustain attention, concentration, and persist for simple familiar tasks; and interact frequently with supervisors and peers and occasionally with the public. [TR 121, 140].

         After the hearing and considering all the evidence, the ALJ issued his decision on March 28, 2018. [TR 25]. At Step One, the ALJ determined that Wilson has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since May 12, 20146. [TR 13]. At Step Two, the ALJ found that Wilson suffered from the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease; fibromyalgia/bilateral asymmetric polyarthritis, obesity; hypertension; carpal tunnel syndrome; Barrett’s esophagus; constipation/irritable bowel syndrome/peptic ulcer disease/gatroparesis and GERD with history of cholecystectomy; history of bronchitis/sub-massive pulmonary embolism/MRSA pneumonia in context; depression/mood disorder/adjustment disorder/bipolar disorder; anxiety; borderline personality disorder with history of cutting; schizophrenia (without psychotic symptoms; and post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”). [TR 13-14].

         But, at Step Three, the ALJ found that none of those impairments or combination or impairments met or medically equaled the severity of any of the listed impairments. [TR 14-15]. In reaching this conclusion, ALJ Holsclaw found that Plaintiff had not satisfied the criteria of Listings 1.02, 1.04, 3.02, 4.0, 5.06, 11.4, 12.03, 12.04, 12.06, 12.08, and 12.15.

         Before proceeding to Step Four, the ALJ found that Wilson had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(b). Specifically, the ALJ found Plaintiff could perform the following tasks:

No lifting/carrying more than 20 pounds occasionally, 10 pounds frequently; no standing/walking more than six hours out of an eight-hour day; no sitting more than six hours out of an eight-hour day; can do unlimited pushing/pulling up to the exertional limitations; can do unlimited balancing, no more than occasional stooping, kneeling, crouching, crawling or climbing ramps or stairs, but no climbing ladders, ropes or scaffolds; no more than frequent fingering or handling bilaterally; no work in areas of concentrated dusts, fumes, gases or other pulmonary irritants; no work in areas of concentrated full-body vibrations or use of vibrating hand tools; no work around dangerous, moving machinery or unprotected heights; no more than simple, routine work; can persist in attention, concentration and pace for two-hour intervals necessary to ...

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