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Allen v. Colvin

United States District Court, Second Circuit

December 19, 2013

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


MICHAEL A. TELESCA, District Judge.


Lisa Marie Allen ("Allen" or "Plaintiff"), represented by counsel, brings this action pursuant to the Social Security Act § 216(i) and § 223, seeking review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Defendant" or "the Commissioner") denying her application for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and finding her ineligible for supplemental security income ("SSI"). The Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

On July 30, 2013, the Commissioner moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405 (g) on the grounds that the findings of the Commissioner are supported by substantial evidence. On August 1, 2013, Plaintiff cross-moved for summary judgment seeking to reverse the Commissioner's decision judgment. For the reasons set forth below, this Court finds that there is substantial evidence in the record to support the Commissioner's decision. Therefore, the Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted and the Plaintiff's motion is denied.


On July 8, 2010, Plaintiff protectively filed applications for SSI and DIB, alleging an onset date of January 1, 2007. T.154-156. Plaintiff, who was 27 years old at the onset date, alleged that she was unable to work due to anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. T.200. After her benefits applications were denied, Plaintiff requested a hearing, which was conducted by Administrative Law Judge MaryJoan McNamara ("the ALJ") on September 26, 2011. T. 27-72. The ALJ denied Plaintiff benefits in a written decision issued on October 21, 2011. T. 12-22. On November 8, 2012, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's Decision the final decision of the Commissioner. T. 1-4. This action followed.


A. Educational and Vocational Background

Plaintiff is a 34 year old woman with a twelfth grade education and one year of community college. T. 36-37. She worked at a cleaning service from 2001 through 2009, as a cleaner at a gas station from 2008 through February, 2010 and in sandwich shops from 1995 through 2000. T. 201. Allen testified that she worked for one employer of various food establishments off and on for 8 years doing everything from preparing food, stocking shelves to cashiering. T. 38. Allen testified that she had difficulties maintaining a job because she failed to show up for work or had hostile exchanges with her bosses. T. 38, 43.

Plaintiff was married in 2007 in an arranged marriage to an Arabic man. T. 285. She described her husband as demanding and abusive. T. 285. She has two children from different fathers who are not in her custody. T. 275. Allen left her husband and entered a homeless shelter. She had a history of cocaine, cannibas and alcohol dependence but claimed she had not used since 2008. T. 285.

Allen indicated in her application form that she was able to cook, clean and do laundry for herself. T. 212. She relies on her mother for cleaning and needs reminders to take her medication. T. 212. Allen relies on public transportation to get around and does her own grocery shopping. T. 213. Allen indicated that she has anxiety with taking the bus at times and her mother accompanies her in these circumstances. T. 213.

Allen claims that she has difficulty paying attention and completing what she has started. T. 215. She claimed to have "cursed out" bosses and "walked out of jobs numerous times." T. 215. She claims her manic depression causes her to either have uncontrolled outbursts of yelling, screaming or throwing things when manic or sleeping a lot when depressed. T. 215. Allen claims that stress can trigger panic attacks during which she feels dizzy, loss of vision and can black out. T. 216.

Plaintiff was taking Zoloft and Clonazepam at the time of the hearing. She testified that the Clonazepam was making her tired but that she needed it for anxiety. T. 45-46. In the last eight months, Plaintiff testified that she did not get out of bed four or five days a week. T. 46. Plaintiff testified that men are a trigger for a panic attack. T. 47. At the time of the hearing, Plaintiff did not take the bus and instead relied on her father or uncle to take her places. T. 48. Her father gave her work to do part time at his business but she can only handle going once a week for five hours at a time. T. 48.

B. Medical Background

Allen was initially placed on medication for emotional issues when she was 12 years old. T. 274. She was prescribed Lithium and Prozac when she was 14. After disclosing a rape to her father and step mother, Plaintiff claims to have been beaten and humiliated. T. 274. Allen attempted suicide by slitting her wrists after the beating and was hospitalized at Strong Psychiatric Unit. T. 275. Allen was placed at Hillside Children's Center and in two out-ofstate placements after which she was placed in foster care. T. 275. Plaintiff was hospitalized once in 2008, for deep depression. T. 276.

Medical records dated April 30, 2008 from Genesee Mental Health Center/Rochester General Hospital indicate that Plaintiff wanted to start Lithium and Prozac again. T. 340. Plaintiff was in a good mood, smiled, had clear thoughts and she reported that she had a good support system and was able to keep her appointments. T. 340. Allen was noted to be cooperative, with organized thoughts and was goal directed. T. 340. The record also indicated that Plaintiff had mood swings. She was restarted on Lithium and Prozac. T. 340. At a follow up appointment on May 29, 2008 with her husband and father-in-law, Plaintiff admitted to mood swings. T. 341. She felt depressed and irritable many days. Plaintiff was using her medications sporadically and was exercising poor judgment. T. ...

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