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Snyder v. Astrue

October 16, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas J. McAVOY, Senior United States District Judge



Tammy L. Snyder ("Plaintiff") brought this suit under the Social Security Act ("Act"), 42 U.S.C. § § 405(g), 1383(c)(3) to review a final determination of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner")denying her application for disability insurance benefits "DIB")and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). Plaintiff alleges that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") denying her applications for benefits was not supported by substantial evidence and was contrary to the applicable legal standards. The Commissioner argues that the decision was supported by substantial evidence and made in accordance with the correct legal standards.


A. Procedural History

Plaintiff applied for SSI and DIB on January 24, 2005, alleging depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and high blood pressure with an onset date of September 21, 2004. (R. at 48) She was denied benefits on June 17, 2005 and filed a request for a hearing before an ALJ on August 3, 2005. Plaintiff was represented by counsel at the hearing held on September 13, 2006. On September 29, 2006, ALJ Alfred R. Tyminski denied Plaintiff's request for Social Security benefits.

A request for review by the Appeals Council was submitted on behalf of Plaintiff on November 20, 2006 and was subsequently denied on July 16, 2007. The decision of the ALJ became the Commissioner's final decision in the case. Plaintiff commenced this civil action on July 24, 2007 requesting review of the Commissioner's decision.

B. Medical Evidence

In December 1999, Plaintiff was admitted to Samaritan Medical Center where she was treated by Dr. Maritza Santana for depression and suicidal thoughts. (R. at 81)*fn1 Dr. Santana diagnosed her with adjustment disorder with depressed mood and dependant personality disorder, and noted her global assessment of functioning (GAF) score on admission was 45.*fn2 (R. at 83) Plaintiff was prescribed Celexa in September 2001, after beginning treatment with Dr. Ryan Tyler at Samaritan Family Health Center for severe stress and difficulty sleeping. (R. at 92-93) In October 2001, Dr. Norman Lesswing evaluated Plaintiff and noted that while "simple responsibilities may demand more energy than she can muster" and "she is highly distressed, with a mix of anxious and depressive dysphoria" (R. at 141), "Tammy Snyder would appear to have a good prognosis. . . ." (R. at 142)

From July 2002 through October 2004, Plaintiff maintained treatment with Dr. Ryan Tyler. (R. at 94-111) Over this time period Plaintiff suffered from panic attacks and depression, for which Dr. Tyler prescribed Celexa, and later Xanax and Effexor. (R. at 94, 97-98, 106, 109-111) Dr. Tyler also treated Plaintiff for hypertension with Altace at varying dosages, and in January 2006 Dr. Tyler noted her hypertension was in good control with medication. (R. at 102, 105-106, 108-109, 112, 449) Plaintiff complained to Dr. Tyler over this period of episodes of lightheadedness, dizziness, near vertigo, and blurred vision. (R. at 102, 105, 108, 111)

In October 2004 Plaintiff began treatment at the Mercy Center for Behavioral Health. (R. at 143) Upon admission, her prognosis was listed as good, meaning she was "likely to respond to treatment within 3 months." (R. at 147) Her GAF scores throughout her treatment there were as follows: 60 upon admission;*fn3 55 in November 2004; 40 in early December;*fn4 back up to 55 from mid-late December 2004 through early April 2005; 60 in late April through May 2005; and 55 in June through October of 2005. (R. at 149, 159, 164, 169, 191, 194, 279, 184, 291, 300) Her treating psychiatrist, Dr. Camillo, diagnosed Plaintiff with major depression post-traumatic stress disorder, for which she was prescribed a higher dosage of Effexor and one-on-one therapy. (R. at 164)

During this time, Plaintiff continued to see Dr. Ryan Tyler for complaints of dizziness, vertigo, chest pain, hypertension, menorrhagia, and obesity. (R. at 445, 449, 458) She underwent a tonsillectomy on April 18, 2005, performed by Dr. Yousef Abu-Sbaih.

(R. 225) Dr. Abdul Latiff, a neurosurgeon, examined Plaintiff in May of 2005 for her recurrent migraine headaches, which Plaintiff reported occurred one or two times a week. (R. at 218) Dr. Latiff continued to treat Plaintiff regularly for migraines through April of 2006. (R. at 486) During her last visit with Dr. Latiff, Plaintiff reported she only had one bad headache since her previous appointment in January of 2006. (R. at 486) Plaintiff testified at her hearing that within a six month period she had two or three bad headaches, which she usually controlled with Naproxyn. (R. at 541) In November of 2005 Plaintiff underwent a bilateral salpingooophorectomy, hysterectomy, and lysis of adhesions due to ovarian cysts, symptomatic fibroids and endometriosis. (R. at 339, 348) At Plaintiff's December 2005 post-operative visit, Dr. Hawkins noted that she was "doing well overall . . . [and] [s]he ha[d] no complaints." (R. at 335)

On March 2, 2005, Dr. William Kimball examined Plaintiff, and his report was filed with the New York State Department of Temporary and Disability Assistance. (R. at 204-08). Dr. Kimball diagnosed Plaintiff with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety. (R. at 208). On June 14, 2005 Dr. Richard Nobel, a non-examining DDS Physician, determined that Plaintiff "retain[ed] the capacity for understanding, remembering, carrying out simple instructions, adapting to changes in the workplace, making simple work decisions and responding appropriately to co-workers and supervision. She retain[ed] the capacity for performance of unskilled work." (R. at 249)

On September 9, 2006, Dr. Camillo completed a Medical Assessment of Ability to do Work-Related Activities. (R. at 497) Dr. Camillo determined that Plaintiff had a poor ability to deal with work stress; function independently; understand, remember, and carry out simple job instructions; and behave in an emotionally stable manner. (R. at 497-98) Dr. Camillo also determined that Plaintiff had a fair ability to relate to co-workers; deal with the public; use judgment; interact with supervisors; maintain attention and concentration; understand, remember, and carry out complex job instructions; ...

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