United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. HOOD SENIOR U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
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.
STANDARD FOR DETERMINING DISABILITY
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).
PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL HISTORY
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].
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].
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].
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
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].
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].
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].
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].
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
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].
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].
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].
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.
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
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 ...