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Dickson v. Astrue

September 17, 2008

VIRGINIA DICKSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION,*FN1 DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Norman A. Mordue, Chief Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

In this action, plaintiff Virginia Dickson, moves, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), for a review of a decision by the Commissioner of Social Security denying plaintiff's application for disability benefits. (Dkt. No. 1). Presently before the Court are the parties' motions for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was born on October 12, 1957 and was 46 years old at the time of the administrative hearing on October 6, 2004. (Administrative Transcript at p. 21, 202).*fn2 Plaintiff has 3 children (2 sons and 1 daughter) and has never been married. (T. 203-204). At the time of the hearing, plaintiff resided in an apartment at 929 Emmit Street in Schenectady, New York with her 2 grandsons, ages 10 and 11. (T. 202). Plaintiff's son resided in an apartment downstairs with his 9 year old daughter. Plaintiff's grandsons came to live with her in 1999 after plaintiff's daughter was incarcerated at Bedford Correctional Facility. (T. 203).

Plaintiff attended high school but dropped out before completing the 11th grade. (T. 205). In 1980, plaintiff attended Schenectady Community College and obtained her certification to become a nurses aide. (T. 66, 208).

From 1992 until 1994, plaintiff was employed as a teacher's aide at an elementary school for children with special needs. (T. 63). Plaintiff's responsibilities included walking children to and from their bus and programs; assisting children with lunch; assisting the teacher; and controlling poorly behaved children. (T. 63). Plaintiff's job required her to walk for 3 hours, stand for 2 hours, and sit for 1 hour during an 8 hour workday. (T. 64). Plaintiff was occasionally required to lift a child weighing 50 pounds and frequently was required to lift 25 pounds. (T. 64). Prior to 1992, plaintiff was employed as a lunch aide at an elementary school and a nurses aide at a nursing home. (T. 63, 75).

Plaintiff alleges that she became disabled on October 27, 1994 after a motor vehicle accident due to an injury to her back, depression and asthma. (T. 34, 40). The last day that plaintiff worked in any capacity was October 27, 1994. (T. 53).

A. Medical Evidence

The medical evidence in the record before the ALJ included treatment records from therapists and psychiatrists at Ellis Hospital Mental Health Services.*fn3 Plaintiff received treatment at Ellis Hospital from Norma Poll, Ph.D, Bhart Langer, M.D., and Stephen Hudyncia, M.D.

On April 27, 1999, plaintiff underwent an initial evaluation at Ellis Hospital.*fn4 (T. 101). Plaintiff reported to the psychologist that she suffered from arthritis in her spine due to a car accident in 1994. (T. 101). Plaintiff stated that she continued to work after the accident but that she "restrained a child and felt pain". (T. 101). Plaintiff advised the psychologist that she lived with her daughter and her two grandsons. (T. 101). Plaintiff claimed that she was taking Zyprexa and Buspar.*fn5 Plaintiff claimed that she received treatment for her depression from "Dr. Sheldon at Sunnyview", Dr. Roldan and Dr. Bush.*fn6 (T. 104). Plaintiff admitted that she never received any prior counseling. (T. 104). The psychologist noted that plaintiff was "frustrated with her situation" and lack of income. (T. 103).

On September 1, 2002, plaintiff returned to Ellis Hospital Mental Health.*fn7 (T. 100). A report was prepared outlining a plan for plaintiff's "goal".*fn8 (T. 100). The doctor noted that plaintiff's goals were to "reduce frequency of depressive symptomology"; to remain compliant with medications and treatment; to work on issues around care taking of her grandsons due to her daughter's incarceration; and to report all instances of depression to therapist. (T. 100).

On June 1, 2003, plaintiff's psychiatrist and clinician prepared a nine month review.*fn9 (T. 99). The psychiatrist noted "patient continues to deal with a lot of stress re: life and grandkids dad not being involved". (T. 99). On December 4, 2003, a quarterly treatment plan review was prepared by N. Poll, Ph.D. and reviewed by a physician.*fn10 (T. 192). Dr. Poll noted that plaintiff was complaint with appointments and medication and that plaintiff expressed her concerns and problem solving skills effectively. (T. 192). Dr. Poll noted that plaintiff needed to work on her stressors due to her family issues. (T. 192).

On January 8, 2004, plaintiff had a 45-minute therapy session with Dr. Poll. (T. 190). Dr. Poll indicated that plaintiff had stresses due to her daughter's demands and financial concerns. (T. 190). Plaintiff advised that she wanted to take computer classes but child care was difficult due to her youngest grandson's diagnosis of ADHD. (T. 190). Dr. Poll stated that plaintiff was compliant with medication but that plaintiff felt more depressed and isolated and she withdrew from social activity outside her home. (T. 190). Dr. Poll advised plaintiff to continue bi-weekly meetings. (T. 190).

On January 19, 2004, plaintiff had a 15-minute visit with Dr. Langer, a physician. (T. 189). Dr. Langer noted plaintiff continued to do well under the circumstances and that her holiday was "ok". (T. 189). Dr. Langer noted plaintiff was at her "baseline - essentially stable" and that plaintiff showed "good symptom control" and displayed "no evidence of any acute psychiatric decompensation". (T. 189). Dr. Langer advised plaintiff to continue with her current medications including Zyprexa, Zoloft, BuSpar and Remeron.*fn11 (T. 189).

On January 27, 2004 and February 11, 2004 plaintiff returned to Dr. Poll for treatment. Dr. Poll noted that plaintiff was concerned about her grandson's medical and behavioral issues.

(T. 188). Plaintiff indicated that she spent all her time at home but that she wanted to register for computer classes and considered working. (T. 187). Dr. Poll noted plaintiff was isolated and depressed with a stable mood and anxious affect. (T. 187-188).

On February 23, 2004, plaintiff had a 15-minute follow up visit with Dr. Langer. (T. 186). Dr. Langer noted plaintiff "continued to do well under the circumstances" and that plaintiff's sleep and appetite were "ok". (T. 186). Dr. Langer noted plaintiff's desire to move from her neighborhood to be away from her children as her sons were "again involved in legal trouble". (T. 186). Dr. Langer opined that plaintiff was "stable and unchanged" and showed "no evidence of acute psychiatric decompensation". (T. 186). Dr. Langer advised plaintiff to continue with her medications. (T. 186).

In February, March and April 2004, plaintiff treated with Dr. Poll. (T. 177-185). Dr. Poll continually noted that plaintiff was "isolated" and "less hopeless" with a stable mode and normal affect. (T. 177, 183, 185). Plaintiff discussed working part time but advised Dr. Poll that she was limited due to child care constraints. (T. 177). Plaintiff stated that visiting her daughter had "helped" and that she was looking forward to another visit with the "support of the local church".

(T. 177). Plaintiff advised that she wanted to change communities due to drug dealing in her neighborhood. (T. 177). In April 2004, Dr. Langer noted plaintiff "continued to do well" and noted plaintiff was "essentially stable and unchanged" without psychosis. (T. 176, 180).

In May 2004, plaintiff treated with Dr. Poll on two occasions. (T. 174-175). Dr. Poll noted that plaintiff needed to manage stressors but that her affect was within normal limits, mood was stable and she was mildly depressed. (T. 175). Plaintiff advised that she was "open to part time employment". (T. 174).

On May 19, 2004, plaintiff was evaluated by a new psychiatrist, Dr. Hudyncia. (T. 173). Dr. Hudyncia noted plaintiff had a 10 year history of treatment for depression.*fn12 (T. 173). Dr. Hudyncia noted that plaintiff's daughter had been in jail since 1999 for murder and that plaintiff's son was also in jail. (T. 173). Dr. Hudyncia concluded plaintiff's "depression in remission with dramatic psychosocial stressors, personality traits". (T. 173). Dr. Hudyncia advised plaintiff to continue with her current treatment. (T. 173).

On June 15, 2004, Dr. Poll noted that plaintiff tried to spend some time outside her home but that she continued to be socially isolated. (T. 172). Plaintiff advised that she was making plans for an extended trip to visit her daughter. (T. 172). Dr. Poll noted plaintiff had a normal affect and stable mood and suggested that she return in 3 weeks. (T. 172).

On July 7, 2004, Dr. Poll noted that plaintiff was anxious, mildly depressed, with low motivation and low energy. (T. 170). Dr. Poll stated that plaintiff was "able to manage parental responsibilities, despite feeling overwhelmed". (T. 170). Dr. Poll noted that plaintiff decided to contact her father who had not supported her in the past. (T. 170). Plaintiff was also contemplating her job options due to financial constraints. (T. 170). On July 13, 2004, Dr. Hudyncia examined plaintiff and noted "[v]ery little depression but socially feels ok". (T. 169). On July 23, 2004, Dr. Poll stated that plaintiff had a "pleasant disposition" and noted plaintiff was preparing for an extended visit with her daughter. (T. 168). Plaintiff indicated that she felt "rejuvenated" after visiting with her daughter and described it as a "vacation". (T. 168). In August 2004, plaintiff expressed "no concerns" to Dr. Poll. (T. 166-167).

On August 24, 2004, Dr. Hudyncia noted plaintiff was "more down and less motivated".

(T. 165). Plaintiff advised that she did not want to deal with social services and wanted to accept responsibility for her situation but wanted a "pill" to change how she felt. (T. 165). Dr. Hudyncia noted plaintiff was more discouraged and diagnosed plaintiff with depression with psychosocial stressors. (T. 165). Dr. Hudyncia stated that it was "unclear if this is a deficiency in her anti depressant treatment" and advised plaintiff to taper and discontinue taking Zoloft. (T. 165). Dr. Hudyncia prescribed Effexor.*fn13 (T. 165).

On September 7, 2004, Dr. Poll prepared an Annual Comprehensive Treatment Plan after plaintiff's visit. (T. 163). Plaintiff complained of increased depression due to her son, grandchildren and an uncle recently diagnosed with cancer. (T. 162). Dr. Poll noted that plaintiff was anxious and mildly depressed with low motivation and energy. (T. 162).

On September 2, 2004, plaintiff had her last visit with Dr. Hudyncia. Plaintiff stated she was "less stressed with kids in school". (T. 161). Dr. Hudyncia noted plaintiff was "improved" with no acute symptoms and opined that her depression in early remission. (T. 161).

On September 29, 2004, plaintiff had her last visit with Dr. Poll. (T. 160). Dr. Poll noted some improvement in plaintiff's mood and stated that plaintiff was open to referral for job assistance. (T. 160). Dr. Poll noted that plaintiff temporarily stopped taking her psychotropic medications for fear of an interaction with pain medication. (T. 160). Dr. Poll opined that plaintiff's depressive symptoms "appear under control". (T. 160).

B. Consultative Examinations

1. Vernon Wheeler, M.D.

On July 28, 2003, Dr. Wheeler performed an internal medicine examination at the request of the agency. (T. 105). Plaintiff complained of a history of depression, low back problems and asthma. (T. 105). Plaintiff advised Dr. Wheeler that she had help from her parents but that she was able to ...


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