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Jimmeson v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. New York

March 20, 2017

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [1] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          DECISION & ORDER

          JONATHAN W. FELDMAN United States Magistrate Judge

         Preliminary Statement

         Plaintiff Makesha Jimmeson ("plaintiff" or "Jimmeson'') brings this action pursuant to Title XVI of the Social Security Act seeking review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the "Commissioner") denying her. application for disability ' insurance benefits. See Complaint (Docket #1). Presently before the Court are competing motions for judgment on the pleadings. See Docket ## 13, 19. For the reasons that follow, plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings (Docket #13) is granted and the Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings (Docket # .19) is denied.

         Background and Procedural History

         Plaintiff filed an application for supplemental security income on June 18, 2012, with an alleged onset 'date of March 4, 2010. Administrative Record, Docket # 8 ("AR"), at 161. She alleged that she suffered the following illnesses, injuries, or conditions: anxiety, depression, bipolar, high blood pressure, and broken ankle. AR at .8 9. Her claims were initially denied on September' 13, 2012. " AR at 100-102. On October 11, 2012, plaintiff filed a' written request for a hearing. AR at 112. Plaintiff, who was represented by an attorney, testified at a hearing on March 19, 2014, before Administrative Law Judge Connor O'Brien (the "ALJ"). AR at 26-88. Vocational Expert Carol G. McManus (the "VE") also testified. On July 17, 2014, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. AR at 12-21. Plaintiff requested that the Appeals Council review the ALJ's decision, (which review the Appeals Council denied oh December 7, 2015. AR at 1-3.

         Plaintiff filed her complaint on February 2, 2016 (see Docket # 1), and her motion for judgment on the pleadings on August 29, 2016 (see Docket # 13) . The Commissioner filed a cross-motion for judgment on the pleadings on November 28, 2016 (see Docket # 19) . This Court heard oral argument on February 13, 2017 (see Docket # 24).

         Relevant Medical History[2]

         Mental Health Treatment Records: Plaintiff has an extensive history of mental illness replete with references to violent ideations, impulse control problems, and bipolar disorder. Plaintiff's hostile affect was noted in the record as early as October 27, 2010. AR at 356. On May 23, 2011, plaintiff told Physician's Assistant Sandra Williams that she had "never [been] told she has bipolar." AR at 412. Nevertheless, on September 22, 2011, plaintiff presented to Dr. Prakash Reddy[3] with violent ideations and stated that she "ha[d] always struggled with anger." Dr. Reddy diagnosed plaintiff with bipolar disorder and impulse control disorder. AR at 3 07-308, 313.

         Plaintiff's bipolar disorder - and its effects on her mental health "' are also referenced by multiple therapists in repeated treatment notes. AR at 430, 732, 774, 779, 784. On several occasions, her bipolar disorder was listed as under sub-optimal control. AR at 772; AR at 7 93; AR at 799.

         Plaintiff's violent thoughts and inability to control her impulses are also well-documented in the record. See AR at 431 (plaintiff stated she had no desire to harm anyone, but would do so if she became angry-);- -AR at 503 (Therapist Rebecca- Boone noted plaintiff's history of violence and impulsivity but assessed her as a low risk for violence); AR at 511 (Therapist Boone documented plaintiff's "willingness to protect herself in self defense but actively avoid situations in which she may become triggered for violence.")- For example, on September 17, 2013, plaintiff reported that she had wanted to hurt someone since her son's murder. AR at 568. However, she appreciated the moral and legal implications of any such action and advised that she did not have any intention of hurting anyone. AR at 570-71.

         Similarly, on July 5, 2013, Dr. Bolduc saw plaintiff, who was aggressive and hostile. She denied being previously seen by Dr. Bolduc, who advised her that a urine screen was negative for the opiates she had been prescribed, leading Dr. Bolduc to opine that plaintiff was misusing the opiates. AR at 788. Plaintiff became agitated at the suggestion that she was not taking her prescribed drugs and stated that she was going to get a new doctor. The entire incident happened in front of her young son. AR at 78 8. She again appeared enraged when she reported to Unity Health System on November 22, 2013, for a pregnancy test. She waited for over two hours and when she was seen by a student, .she became irate and cursed at the doctor and his student. AR at 600.

         Plaintiff's therapy sessions with Kelly Murrell at the Catholic Family Center between May and July, 2014 also shed light on the scope of her mental impairments. AR at 834; AR at 851-74. She began therapy because her son had recently been murdered. Throughout the sessions, she noted that she had a history of being violent and had an inability to control her emotions and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and depression. Therapist Murrell assigned her a GAF of 50. AR at 848. Plaintiff reported not liking to be around other people. And she had difficulty sleeping and concentrating and a poor appetite. AR at 851. Plaintiff reported hitting her seven-year-old son with a belt. AR at 853. She also reported frustration with her medical providers who she believed were expecting too much from her. AR at 855.

         On. May 21, 2014, plaintiff was angry and reported to Therapist Murrell that she was trying to confront two women who had been harassing her son. She identified homicidal ideation. AR at 857. But the following week, plaintiff was calm and pleasant and reported that there were no further issues with harassment. On June 13, 2014, plaintiff reported that her nephew came to visit her and stated that he had information about her son's death but would not divulge the details. Plaintiff got angry and wanted to kill her nephew but family members intervened. AR at 865. On July 22, 2014, plaintiff again reported feeling angry, this time due to a not-guilty verdict in her son's murder case. This prompted her to become excessively involved in sexual behaviors (intercourse, pornography) because it gave her a "rush." AR at 868. Plaintiff acknowledged that she engages in impulsive, and reckless behavior when feeling stressed. AR at 868.

         There are several references in the record to instances in which plaintiff discontinued or failed to appear for treatment. For example, in the spring of 2 012, plaintiff failed to appear several times for scheduled therapy. See AR at 340-341. Shortly thereafter, plaintiff presented to outpatient mental health treatment due to self-reported depression and mood lability. Therapist Kelly worked to manage plaintiff's feelings of anger in an effort to decrease violent behavior. AR at 323. However,, plaintiff told her physician, Dr. Donahue, that she did not believe her needs were being met. AR at 371.. She was discharged on July 25, 2012 per her own request, because she did not believe treatment was helpful. AR at 323, 339. On August 8, 2012, plaintiff reported to Unity Family Medicine at St. Mary's where she stated, that she was unable to reach her therapist, a ...

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