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Bantle v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. New York

February 24, 2017

RACHEL BANTLE, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          DECISION & ORDER

          MARIAN W. PAYSON United States Magistrate Judge.

         PRELIMINARY STATEMENT

         Plaintiff Rachel Bantle (“Bantle”) brings this action pursuant to Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the “Commissioner”) denying her application for Supplemental Security Income Benefits (“SSI”). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties have consented to the disposition of this case by a United States magistrate judge. (Docket # 14).

         Currently before the Court are the parties' motions for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Docket ## 13, 15). For the reasons set forth below, I hereby vacate the decision of the Commissioner and remand this claim for further administrative proceedings consistent with this decision.

         BACKGROUND

         I. Procedural Background

         Bantle protectively filed for SSI on July 13, 2012, alleging disability beginning on April 26, 2012, due to pelvic pain syndrome, endometriosis, interstitial cystitis, myocardosis, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, arthritis, cystic ovarian disease, and asthma. (Tr. 29, 127, 146).[1] On October 23, 2012, the Social Security Administration denied Bantle's claims for benefits, finding that she was not disabled.[2] (Tr. 55-69). Bantle requested and was granted a hearing before Administrative Law Judge David J. Begley (the “ALJ”). (Tr. 76-78). The ALJ conducted a hearing on February 19, 2014. (Tr. 26-54). In a decision dated June 2, 2014, the ALJ found that Bantle was not disabled and was not entitled to benefits. (Tr. 11-21).

         On July 22, 2015, the Appeals Council denied Bantle's request for review of the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 1-6). In the denial, the Appeals Council considered additional evidence submitted by Bantle that primarily predated the ALJ's determination but was not submitted until after the ALJ had rendered his decision. (Tr. 1-2, 5, 886-910, 911-81). The additional evidence consisted of records from Wayne Behavioral Health Network, including treatment notes authored by Bantle's licensed clinical social worker, Patricia Nelson-Struck. (Tr. 911-81). The additional evidence also included medical records from Strong Memorial Hospital. (Tr. 886-910). The Appeals Council concluded that this additional evidence did not “provide a basis for changing the [ALJ's] decision.” (Tr. 2).

         Bantle commenced this action on August 19, 2015, seeking review of the Commissioner's decision. (Docket # 1).

         II. Medical Opinions of Record

         A. Jennifer Campbell, MD

         On October 18, 2010, Jennifer Campbell (“Campbell”), MD, Bantle's internist, completed an employability assessment relating to Bantle, whom she had been treating for eighteen months. (Tr. 830-31). She diagnosed Bantle with pelvic pain, endometriosis, depression, anxiety, interstitial cystitis, and mild asthma. (Id.). Campbell opined that Bantle had no evidence of mental limitations, but was moderately limited in her ability to perform lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling, and bending. (Id.).

         Campbell completed another employability assessment on December 20, 2010. (Tr. 832-33). She indicated that Bantle suffered from pelvic pain, endometriosis, depression, anxiety, asthma, and supraventricular tachycardia. (Id.). Campbell assessed no physical limitations. (Id.). According to Campbell, Bantle had been receiving mental health treatment at Wayne County Mental Health for the previous three to six months. (Id.). She opined that Bantle was very limited in her ability to maintain attention and concentration, interact appropriately with others, maintain socially appropriate behavior without exhibiting behavior extremes, and function in a work setting at a consistent pace. (Id.). She also opined that Bantle was moderately limited in her ability to understand, remember and carry out instructions, and make simple decisions. (Id.). Campbell opined that Bantle's limitations were expected to last approximately four to six months. (Id.).

         On January 17, 2011, Campbell completed another employability assessment form. (Tr. 834-35). She opined that Campbell was very limited in her ability to lift and carry objects and moderately limited in her ability to stand, push, pull, bend, see, hear, speak, use her hands, and climb. (Id.). With respect to Bantle's mental limitations, Campbell assessed that she was moderately limited in her ability to maintain attention and concentration and function in a work setting at a consistent pace. (Id.). She also opined that Bantle was unable to work and referred her for mental health treatment. (Id.).

         Campbell completed another employability assessment form on June 29, 2011. (Tr. 836-37). She opined that Campbell was moderately limited in her ability to stand, sit, lift, carry, push, pull, bend, and climb. (Id.). With respect to Bantle's mental limitations, Campbell assessed that she was moderately limited in her ability to interact appropriately with others, maintain socially appropriate behavior without exhibiting behavior extremes, and function in a work setting at a consistent pace. (Id.). She also opined that Bantle was unable to engage in prolonged standing, pushing, pulling, and climbing, and was unable to lift objects greater than ten pounds. (Id.).

         On February 13, 2012, Campbell again completed an employability assessment form. (Tr. 838-39). She diagnosed Bantle with endometriosis, chronic pelvic pain syndrome, interstitial cystitis, chronic back pain, rheumatoid arthritis, supraventricular tachycardia, palpations, extra valve in heart, panic and anxiety disorder, and “sometimes” depression. (Id.). She assessed no physical limitations and opined that Bantle was moderately limited in her ability to interact appropriately with others. (Id.).

         B. Christine Ransom, PhD

         On September 21, 2012, state examiner Christine Ransom (“Ransom”), PhD, conducted a consultative psychiatric evaluation of Bantle. (Tr. 508-12). Bantle reported that she was twenty-four years old and had been driven to the examination by her mother. (Id.). She reported that she lived with her four-year-old child. (Id.). Bantle reported that she had completed high school in a regular educational setting. (Id.). She reported that she had been employed as an administrative assistant for approximately one year and had stopped working in 2010 due to mental health difficulties. (Id.).

         According to Bantle, she was currently receiving mental health treatment, including medication and counseling, at Wayne County Mental Health for PTSD, panic disorder, and depression. (Id.). Bantle reportedly experienced and observed sexual molestation by her cousins when she was growing up and in high school began having panic attacks, characterized by palpitations, sweating, breathing difficulties, trembling, and fear. (Id.). Bantle reported that she currently suffered from nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, and anger. (Id.). She also had sleep difficulties. (Id.). Bantle indicated that she was experiencing decreased appetite, frequent crying spells, irritability, low energy, preoccupation with problems, and difficulty concentrating. (Id.).

         Bantle reported that she socialized with a few friends and with her mother. (Id.). Bantle spent most of her day resting and caring for her son, although at times she had to crawl to do so. (Id.). Bantle denied generalized anxiety, manic symptomatology, thought disorder, cognitive symptoms, and deficits. (Id.).

         Bantle reported that pain made it difficult for her to attend to personal hygiene and household chores, including cooking, laundry, and shopping. (Id.). According to Bantle, her mother sometimes assisted her with these tasks and with managing her money because she had difficulty focusing. (Id.). Bantle reported that she had a driver's license, but did not have a car. (Id.). She was able to care for her child. (Id.).

         Upon examination, Ransom noted that Bantle appeared casually dressed, although unkempt and poorly groomed. (Id.). She noted that Bantle's motor behavior was lethargic and her eye contact was downcast. (Id.). Ransom opined that Bantle had slow, halting speech with a clear voice that was moderately to markedly dysphoric, irritable, labile, intense, and anxious, and adequate language, coherent and goal-directed thought processes, moderately to markedly dysphoric, irritable, labile, intense, and anxious affect and correlating mood, clear sensorium, full orientation, good insight, good judgment, and average intellectual functioning. (Id.). Ransom noted that Bantle's attention and concentration appeared to be mildly impaired due to emotional disturbance and anxiety. (Id.). According to Ransom, Bantle could count backwards from ten and complete two out of three simple calculations, but had difficulty completing the serial threes. (Id.). Bantle's immediate memory skills appeared mildly impaired due to emotional disturbance and anxiety. (Id.). According to Ransom, Bantle could recall one out of three objects immediately, one out of three objects after delay, and could complete three digits forward and two digits backward. (Id.).

         According to Ransom, Bantle could follow and understand simple directions and instructions, perform simple tasks independently, maintain attention and concentration for simple tasks, maintain a simple regular schedule and learn simple new tasks, but would have moderate to marked difficulty performing complex tasks, relating adequately with others, and appropriately dealing with stress. (Id.). According to Ransom, her difficulties stemmed from PTSD, currently moderate to marked, major depressive order, currently moderate to marked, and panic disorder with agoraphobia, currently moderate to marked. (Id.). Ransom opined that the results of the evaluation were consistent with Bantle's allegations. (Id.).

         C. Harbinder Toor, MD

         On September 21, 2012, state examiner Harbinder Toor (“Toor”), MD, conducted a consultative internal medicine examination. (Tr. 513-18). Bantle reported suffering from endometriosis, interstitial cystitis, bleeding cyst, chronic pelvic and abdominal syndrome, chronic lower back pain, possible rheumatoid arthritis, supraventricular tachycardia, depression, panic attacks, anxiety attacks, asthma, and a history of seizures. (Id.).

         Bantle reported that she cooked twice a week, cleaned the house twice a week, and was able to do laundry, shop, and care for her child. (Id.). She showered and dressed daily with assistance. (Id.). She ...


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