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Iacobucci v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, W.D. New York

June 30, 2015


OPINION AND ORDER (Docs. 15, 17)

GEOFFREY W. CRAWFORD,, District Judge.

Plaintiff Lauren Iacobucci brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 405(g) of the Social Security Act, requesting review and remand of the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying her applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income ("SSI"). Pending before the court are the parties' motions for judgment on the pleadings. For the reasons stated below, the court GRANTS Iacobucci's motion, DENIES the Commissioner's motion, and REMANDS for further proceedings and a new decision.

I. Background

Lauren Iacobucci was twenty-one years old on her amended alleged disability onset date of June 25, 2011.[1] Iacobucci has been diagnosed with adjustment disorder, depressive disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder (AR 284, 295, 355.) She has a high school education, but struggled in school due to her learning disability. She lives in a house with her mother, three other adult family members, and her young son. (AR 157.)

Iacobucci was classified as learning disabled through all four years of high school. (AR 209-39.) She generally received average or below average grades, and she needed special education services in English and math. (AR 212.) Her full scale IQ is in the borderline range, measured at 71 and 73. (AR 215.) Iacobucci enrolled in community college, but dropped out before she had completed one semester because she felt overwhelmed and became pregnant. (AR 34.)

Iacobucci first sought treatment for depression on March 9, 2009, when she presented to the Erie County Medical Center with a complaint of depression. (AR 277.) She stated that she had been feeling depressed for the previous several months and that she slept ten to twelve hours per night. (Id. ) The attending physician diagnosed her with adjustment disorder and depressive mood, and assessed her GAF score at 41-50. (AR 284.) Iacobucci was referred to mental health counseling. (AR 283.)

On May 5, 2011, Iacobucci was examined by agency consulting psychologist Gregory Fabiano, Ph.D. Iacobucci complained of depression, fatigue, loss of interest, and social withdrawal. (AR 293.) Dr. Fabiano noted that Iacobucci was casually dressed and well-groomed, spoke clearly, exhibited coherent thought processes, displayed appropriate affect, and was euthymic in mood. (AR 293-94.) He further noted that she reported having friends, hobbies, and interests. (AR 294-95.) Dr. Fabiano diagnosed her with depressive disorder, but concluded that she could manage complex tasks and that her depression was not significant enough to interfere with her daily functioning. (AR 295.) On June 7, 2011, agency consulting psychiatrist H. Tzetzo reviewed the record evidence and concurred with Dr. Fabiano's assessment. (AR 309.) Dr. Tzetzo concluded that Iacobucci's psychiatric impairments impacted her functioning only minimally. (Id. )

Iacobucci periodically sought treatment for her depression throughout 2011. (AR 343-49.) She was encouraged to exercise, referred to counseling, and prescribed various medicines to combat her depression and anxiety, including Zoloft, Melatonin, Atenolol, Klonopin, and Zyrtec. (AR 343-44.)

On January 24, 2012, Iacobucci began treating with psychiatrist Wendy Weinstein, M.D. After an initial psychiatric evaluation, Dr. Weinstein noted that Iacobucci was cooperative, clear and coherent; displayed appropriate affect; had goal-directed thought processes and fair insight and judgment; and was within normal cognitive limits. (AR 353.) Dr. Weinstein observed that Iacobucci's mood was depressed, and diagnosed her with recurrent major depression and generalized anxiety disorder. (Id. ) Dr. Weinstein concluded that Iacobucci suffered from "prominent symptoms of depression which appear[ed] to be affecting her functioning." (Id. ) She noted that Iacobucci was "unable to focus, concentrate, or be motivated, " and indicated her concern that Iacobucci's depression would worsen after her baby was born. (Id. ) Dr. Weinstein prescribed Lexapro. (Id. ) Iacobucci treated with Dr. Weinstein roughly monthly, and had met with her a total of six times before Iacobucci's hearing occurred and the medical record was closed. Dr. Weinstein's treatment notes indicate recurring depression, and she continually increased Iacobucci's medication and introduced new medications, such as Celexa and Abilify. (AR 354-58.) Dr. Weinstein also noted that Iacobucci reported feeling overwhelmed and anxious after the birth of her son. (AR 356, 358.)

Iacobucci has worked as a summer youth program counselor, a cashier at a pharmacy and grocery store, and a cafeteria worker at a middle school. (AR 149.) She stopped working on June 25, 2011 because of her depression.

Iacobucci protectively filed for disability benefits and SSI on February 28, 2011, claiming her depression, anxiety, and learning disability prevented her from working.[2] (AR 117-30.) Her applications were denied, and a hearing was held on September 24, 2012, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") David Lewandowski. (AR 30.) Iacobucci appeared and testified, and was represented by an attorney. (Id. ) A vocational expert ("VE") also testified at the hearing. (AR 52-56.)

At the hearing, Iacobucci testified to her persistent depression, anxiety, and paranoia. (AR 41-44.) She testified that she starts shaking and cries for twenty-minute periods due to her anxiety. (AR 43.) She also stated that she receives help from her mother in caring for her son, which she finds overwhelming. (AR 51.) Iacobucci mostly stays at her home and rarely leaves the house or socializes. (AR 48-49.)

The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on October 25, 2012. (AR 15-23.) The Appeals Council denied Iacobucci's request for review, rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (AR 1.) ...

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