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Parikh v. Astrue

March 2, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: John Gleeson, United States District Judge


Saroj C. Parikh brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security determining that she is not entitled to disability insurance benefits under the Social Security Act. Both parties cross-move for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c). For the reasons stated below, Parikh's motion is granted and the Commissioner's motion is denied. The case is remanded to the Commissioner for a new hearing.


A. Parikh's Self-Description*fn1

Parikh was born in India on October 5, 1951, R. 54, 172, where she earned a college degree prior to moving to the United States in 1981. Id. at 172-73. She worked as a clerk for the New York State Comptroller's Office from January of 1987 until March 8, 2005, id. at 60, 161, 170, 177-78.*fn2 On January 6, 2005, Parikh's supervisor humiliated her and became overly critical of her work, id. at 171-72, leading her to become depressed and to quit her job on March 8, 2005. Id. at 108, 172-73.

Parikh claims that she suffers from depression, insomnia and obsessive-compulsive traits that make her restless and impair her memory. Id. at 162. She feels that she cannot work at any job because her depression makes her afraid of others and unable to concentrate. Id. at 170-72. She attends monthly individual and group therapy. Id. at 180-81.

Parikh lives with her son, who does most of the housework such as cleaning and laundry. Id. at 163, 165.*fn3 While her son does the grocery shopping, Parikh prepares simple meals by microwaving food or else having it delivered. Id. at 163, 165. Her son has a mental illness for which he takes medication,*fn4 and Parikh financially supports him while he is studying. Id. at 174.

Parikh pays bills with money that her sister and brother-in-law provide. Id. at 163-64. She does not travel alone because she is afraid of getting lost. Id. at 166-67. Parikh typically wakes up between 10 and 12 A.M. and spends the day resting due to her depression. Id. at 167. She does not socialize because she becomes aggravated and does not want to reveal that she is not working. Id. at 168-69.

B. Medical Evidence

1. Dr. Moy, Parikh's Treating Osteopathic Family Practitioner

On March 9, 2005, Dr. Michael Moy, an osteopathic family practitioner, began treating Parikh. R. at 107. He examined her on March 11, 2005, when she complained of migraine headaches, anxiety, and insomnia induced by office noise pollution. Id. She reported that her symptoms began on January 6, 2005, id., and reported no previous psychiatric history or history of alcohol or drug abuse, id. Dr. Moy diagnosed her with headaches and insomnia, opined that she was totally disabled, and recommended that she rest at home, be accompanied when going outside, and visit a neurologist, psychiatrist, and cardiologist. Id. He examined her on April 12, 2005, May 5, 2005, and June 13, 2005, and on each occasion she reported the same symptoms and he reached the same diagnosis and conclusion as to disability. Id. at 104-06.

Dr. Moy examined Parikh again on June 25, 2005. He observed that she was appropriately dressed and groomed and able to speak coherently, but was apprehensive, restless, depressed, anxious, and tense. Id. at 102. She stated that she was having paranoid thoughts and occasional feelings of worthlessness and was obsessed with thoughts of humiliation and unfair treatment at work. Id. While she was alert and oriented as to person, place and time, and her memory was grossly intact, her attention and concentration were limited when tested by subtraction and also in general conversation. Id. Dr. Moy diagnosed her with depressive disorder, with a global assessment of functioning ("GAF") of 54. Id.*fn5 He suggested continuing medications*fn6 and avoiding environments which exacerbated her symptoms, such as the workplace. Id. at 103. He considered her prognosis "fair if proper treatment is provided." Id.

2. Dr. Shpitalnik, Parikh's Treating Psychiatrist

Dr. Vilor Shpitalnik, a psychiatrist, evaluated Parikh on May 2, 2005, and noted that she complained of a "[d]epressed [m]ood most of the day almost every day, headaches, anxiety, insomnia, lack of energy, obsessive thoughts about the incident [where she was humiliated by her supervisor], feelings of hopelessness, low self-esteem, thoughts of worthlessness of life." R. at 108. He found her facial expression to be sad, her mood to be depressed, anxious and tense, and her affect somewhat constricted. Id. However, he noted that she was appropriately dressed and groomed and did not find any evidence of thought process disorder. Id. He did note that her attention and concentration span was somewhat limited. Id. at 109. Dr. Shpitalnik diagnosed Parikh with major depressive disorder and assessed her GAF at 50.*fn7 Id. Dr. Shpitalnik prescribed Zoloft and Sonata for Parikh. Id.

On July 18, 2005, Dr. Shpitalnik wrote a letter indicating that he had been treating Parikh since May 2, 2005, restating her symptoms and his diagnosis of major depressive disorder and opining that Parikh was "unable to function in her work setting" for at least three months. Id. at 130. On April 3, 2006, Dr. Shpitalnik noted that Parikh had not improved and was "still experiencing depression, anxiety, insomnia, and low self-esteem." Id. at 132. He also reported that she experienced occasional dizzy spells and episodes of physical weakness. Id. Dr. Shpitalnik observed her to have a sad facial expression and a depressed, anxious and tense mood, noted that "she easily breaks down in crying spells," and found her to have limited concentration and attention. Id. at 132-33. He diagnosed her with major depressive disorder, and opined that she was totally disabled. Id. at 133.

On December 4, 2006, Dr. Shpitalnik completed a psychological impairment questionnaire on the basis of his monthly observations of Parikh, including an observation that day. Id. at 148. He found Parikh suffered from appetite disturbance, sleep disturbance, mood disturbance, emotional lability, anhedonia, difficulty concentrating, social withdrawal, decreased energy, intrusive recollections of her humiliation at work, and generalized persistent anxiety. Id. at 149. He diagnosed her with major depressive disorder with a GAF of 50. Id. at 148. He found that she was "markedly limited," signifying an impairment that "effectively precludes the individual from performing the activity in a meaningful manner," in the ability to "carry out detailed instructions"; to "maintain attention and concentration for extended periods"; to "sustain ordinary routine without supervision"; to "work in coordination with or proximity to others without being distracted by them"; to "get along with co-workers or peers without distracting them or exhibiting behavioral extremes"; to "maintain socially appropriate behavior and to adhere to basic standards of neatness and cleanliness"; to "respond ...

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