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Freytes v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, S.D. New York

July 9, 2015



GABRIEL W. GORENSTEIN, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Wendy Freytes brings this action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c) for judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her claims for Social Security Disability ("SSD") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") benefits under the Social Security Act. The parties have consented to disposition of this case by a United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Both Freytes and the Commissioner have moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). For the reasons stated below, Freytes's motion is granted, the Commissioner's motion is denied, and the case is remanded for further proceedings.


A. Freytes's Claim for Benefits and Procedural History

Freytes applied for SSD and SSI benefits on June 7, 2011. See SSA Administrative Record, filed Dec. 1, 2014 (Docket # 11) ("R."), at 102-13. She claimed that her ability to work was limited by "major depressive disorder" and "chronic knee pain[]." R. 172. The alleged onset date of her disability was April 5, 2010. R. 102, 104.

On August 25, 2011, the Social Security Administration denied Freytes's application. R. 49-55. Freytes requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), R. 57-59, which was held on October 23, 2012, R. 24-46. On January 9, 2013, the ALJ issued a decision concluding that Freytes was not disabled. R. 9-20. Freytes requested review of this decision from the Appeals Council, R. 7-8, which denied her request, R. 1-6, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. On July 24, 2014, Freytes filed this suit under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1381(c). See Complaint, filed July 24, 2014 (Docket # 1). Both parties have filed motions for judgment on the pleadings.[1]

B. The Administrative Record

Freytes and the Commissioner have each provided a summary of the relevant evidence contained in the administrative record. See Pl. Mem. at 2-9; Comm'r Mem. at 2-14. The Court adopts the parties' summaries, which do not conflict in any material way, as accurate and complete for purposes of the issues raised in this suit. We discuss the portions of the administrative record pertinent to the adjudication of this case in section III below.

C. The Hearing Before the ALJ

A hearing before ALJ James Kearns was held on October 23, 2012. R. 24-46. Freytes appeared in person and was represented by an attorney. R. 24, 26. Freytes testified that she traveled to the hearing by taxi with her father-in-law. R. 29, 37. The ALJ heard testimony from Freytes and vocational expert Yaakov Taitz, Ph.D. R. 24-25; see R. 80-81.

Freytes testified first, responding to questions from the ALJ and then her attorney. She was born on May 22, 1977, R. 27, making her 35 years old as of the hearing date. She completed 10th or 11th grade but did not graduate from high school or receive any vocational training. R. 29. She lives with her three children - aged 10, 3, and 1 - and her boyfriend. R. 28. The last time she worked was 2010, at which time she was working full-time from her home as a babysitter. R. 29-30. She had been working as a babysitter since 2007 and could not recall what work she did before that. R. 30.

Asked about why she was unable to work, Freytes mentioned depression, anxiety attacks, poor concentration, and side effects from her medication including dizziness and drowsiness. R. 31. She also stated that she hears voices, which she described as "[d]istant voices, mumbling." R. 39. As for physical problems, she stated that she was diagnosed with "chondromalacia patellae" of her knees and that she had not attended physical therapy for that condition because she was afraid to go and did not have anyone to accompany her. R. 36. Her knees still hurt "from time to time, " but she was not seeing a doctor about them as of the date of the hearing. Id. She stated that she saw a psychiatrist each month and that she regularly saw her primary care physician. See R. 31-32. She confirmed that she was currently taking Clonazepan, Invega, Gabapentin, and Escitalopram. R. 32. She testified that the medications "work from time to time" but that they made her "sleep most of the day." R. 33.

Freytes testified that, during a typical day, she spends most of her time asleep, except she is awake to eat breakfast and lunch and she "say[s]... hello to my little kids." Id. She stated that her boyfriend takes care of her children when she is "not capable of doing it, " id., and that her boyfriend's mother also comes to her house to help with the children when he is not there, R. 35. Freytes testified that her boyfriend does all the cooking and that she does not cook. R. 34-35. Her boyfriend also does the mopping, sweeping, and laundry, but Freytes "clean[s] up [her] bed." R. 35-36. Her daughter does the dishes. R. 35. Freytes leaves the house to attend appointments for herself or her children and to go food shopping with her boyfriend. R. 34-35. She travels by bus or taxi when she needs to get somewhere, and someone always travels with her. R. 29, 37. She cannot use the train because "it's too much people" and her "heart races and I get sick." R. 37.

Freytes testified that her psychological symptoms began when she was young. R. 38. She attempted suicide twice, with the latest attempt being in 2001. Id. She testified that she had a brother who was schizophrenic and ...

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