United States District Court, W.D. New York
JOHN R. MARNELL, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
DECISION & ORDER
W. PAYSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
John R. Marnell (“Marnell”) brings this action
pursuant to Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act (the
“Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial
review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security (the “Commissioner”) denying his
application for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”). 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 # 16).
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 ## 9, 14). For the reasons set forth
below, this Court finds that the decision of the Commissioner
is supported by substantial evidence in the record and
complies with applicable legal standards. Accordingly, the
Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings is
granted, and Marnell's motion for judgment on the
pleadings is denied.
protectively filed for DIB on May 28, 2013, alleging
disability beginning on June 1, 2012, due to bipolar disorder
and depression. (Tr. 175, 178). On August 5, 2013, the Social
Security Administration denied Marnell's claims for
benefits, finding that he was not disabled. (Tr. 85-89).
Marnell requested and was granted a hearing before
Administrative Law Judge David J. Begley (the
“ALJ”). (Tr. 90-91, 116-20). The ALJ conducted a
hearing on August 14, 2015. (Tr. 28-57). In a decision dated
August 26, 2015, the ALJ found that Marnell was not disabled
and was not entitled to benefits. (Tr. 10-27).
February 7, 2017, the Appeals Council denied Marnell's
request for review of the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 1-6).
Marnell commenced this action on April 5, 2017, seeking
review of the Commissioner's decision. (Docket # 1).
Relevant Medical Evidence
Tinu Addams Medical, PC
December 31, 2012, Marnell participated in a psychiatric
intake evaluation at Tinu Addams Medical, PC. (Tr. 248-49).
Marnell complained of increased symptoms of depression,
including increased irritability, mood swings, anger,
frustration, suicidal ideation, crying, insomnia, and general
malaise and decrease in normal interests. (Id.). He
reported that he had not been employed since May 2012 and had
been fired from a previous job due to poor attendance and
tardiness. (Id.). He reported episodes of increased
energy lasting one to two days, which generally occurred
monthly. (Id.). He indicated that he socialized with
a few friends, but that he was otherwise withdrawn and had no
daily routine. (Id.). He primarily slept during the
day and spent the evenings on the computer. (Id.).
indicated that he previously had been treated by a therapist,
but had stopped because he did not find the treatment
helpful. (Id.). Marnell had been taking Celexa daily
since 2007, which he found somewhat helpful. (Id.).
Marnell lived at home with his parents and his sister, and
had attended four years of college but had not obtained a
degree. (Id.). He was assessed to suffer from
bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety disorder and was
prescribed Lamictal and advised to continue taking Celexa.
(Id.). He was referred for a sleep study.
returned for an appointment with Catherine A. Grasta
(“Grasta”), NPP, on January 28, 2013. (Tr.
246-47). Marnell expressed agreement with the bipolar
diagnosis and indicated that he experienced increased
depression if he did not take Celexa. (Id.). Marnell
reported racing thoughts, periods of increased energy,
difficulty falling asleep, low energy, and poor
concentration. (Id.). A mental status examination of
Marnell was essentially normal, with appropriate appearance,
cooperative attitude, calm motor activity, appropriate
speech, euthymic mood and affect, goal-oriented thought
processes, and intact cognition. (Id.). Marnell
reported that he was tolerating his medication without any
physical discomfort, and Grasta instructed him to
incrementally increase his Lamictal dosage. (Id.).
did not return for an appointment with Grasta until May 9,
2013, more than three months later. (Tr. 245). During that
appointment, Marnell reported that he had stopped taking all
of his medication approximately two months earlier because
some made him ill. (Id.). Marnell complained of
increased depression, bouts of mania and hypomania, and
feelings of paranoia. (Id.). He reported moderate
energy and concentration and that he continued to spend time
with friends. (Id.). A mental status examination was
normal, and Grasta instructed Marnell to continue taking
Celexa and to restart Lamictal and gradually increase the
following month, Marnell returned for an appointment with
Grasta. (Tr. 244). He reported that he generally experienced
about three good days a month; and on other days, he
experienced depression or mania with rapidly cycling moods.
(Id.). According to Marnell, he slept during the day
because he had difficulty sleeping at night. (Id.).
Marnell explained that he had attended college for more than
four years, but missed his senior recital due to appendicitis
and never obtained a degree. (Id.). He reported that
he had attended a sleep study intake appointment, but had not
returned for the study because he had not wanted to wear a
mask. (Id.). A mental status examination was normal
except for suicidal thoughts without plan. (Id.).
Marnell reported that he was tolerating his medication
without physical discomfort, and Grasta instructed him to
continue his medication and to gradually increase the
Lamictal dosage. (Id.).
attended another appointment with Grasta on July 11, 2013.
(Tr. 321-22). He reported that he was not doing well and was
experiencing depression, anxiety, apathy, and thoughts of
suicide. (Id.). He reportedly spent his days
sleeping or playing video games, and he smoked marijuana to
alleviate his suicidal urges. (Id.). Marnell
indicated that he would not harm himself because of the
effects of such action on his family. (Id.). He
reported that he had recently joined a gym and planned to
begin exercising and to audition for a role in an upcoming
production at a local college. (Id.). Marnell had
been inconsistent with his medication due to “chaos in
his life.” (Id.). His mental status
examination was essentially normal, and Marnell agreed to
continue taking his medication and to continue to increase
the Lamictal dosage. (Id.).
his appointment the following month, Marnell reported that he
had not been taking his medication for three to four weeks.
(Tr. 319-20). According to Marnell, his medication caused
gastrointestinal issues. (Id.). Marnell reported an
increase in symptoms, including sadness, decreased interest
in socialization, varied sleep, apathy, poor energy, and
suicidal ideation. (Id.). According to Marnell, he
had difficulty maintaining an exercise routine, had been
unable to cope with the stress associated with auditioning
for the production, and had experienced a steady decline in
his mood. (Id.). Grasta discussed a suicide safety
plan with Marnell and his mother, and she suggested that
Marnell be admitted to a partial hospitalization program.
(Id.). Grasta counseled Marnell regarding
consistency with his medication and suggested that his
gastrointestinal issues stemmed from his diabetic medicine,
not the medication that she prescribed and advised him that
he should not have stopped all of his medication.
(Id.). Marnell agreed to restart Celexa and to take
Neurontin for his anxiety. (Id.).
September 18, 2013, Marnell attended another appointment with
Grasta. (Tr. 318). He reported that he had restarted his
medication and that he was feeling “much better.”
(Id.). He decided not to participate in the partial
hospitalization program and was socializing more often with
friends. (Id.). He reported good sleep and appetite
but that he felt tired and his concentration was poor.
(Id.). Grasta recommended that Marnell continue
taking Celexa and Neurontin, start exercising, and return in
four to six weeks. (Id.).
returned for another appointment with Grasta on October 16,
2013. (Tr. 317). He reported that he believed that Celexa and
Neruontin were working well together and that his depression
had decreased. (Id.). He had been spending his days
with friends and watching television. (Id.). Grasta
recommended that Marnell continue his medication as
prescribed, start exercising, and attend an anxiety and
depression group at Strong. (Id.). During an
appointment the following month, Marnell reported that he was
losing weight, although not exercising, and that his moods
were mostly stable. (Tr. 315). He left the house most days
and spent time with friends. (Id.). He also
indicated that one of his teachers had suggested that he
suffered from ADHD. (Id.).
December 2013, Marnell told Grasta that he continued to take
his medication as directed and that he was feeling
“okay, ” although he continued to use marijuana
several times a week. (Tr. 314). He reported that he was
spending time with friends and would be babysitting his
two-year-old niece. (Id.). In January 2014, Marnell
told Grasta that he had not taken Celexa for approximately
one week during the holidays, but had restarted it. (Tr.
313). He reported that he lacked focus and motivation.
(Id.). Grasta recommended that Marnell try Concerta
as a treatment option for ADHD. (Id.).
February 2014, Marnell met with Grasta and reported that he
had again stopped taking his medication. (Tr. 311). He
reported an incident in which he recently had “pulled a
knife on himself, ” but indicated that he was sleep
deprived at the time and had not hurt himself.
(Id.). He stopped taking Concerta after a few days
because he did not find it effective and stopped taking
Neurontin because it had “just fell to the
wayside.” (Id.). He continued to consume
marijuana and spend time with friends and family, and he
reported better sleep and varied energy levels.
(Id.). Grasta noted that Marnell had not been taking
his medication for approximately one month and that he was
having increased depressive symptoms and thoughts of suicide.
(Id.). She recommended that he restart Celexa.
returned approximately two weeks later and reported that he
was doing much better after restarting Celexa. (Tr. 310).
According to Marnell, his sleep had returned to a normal
pattern, his moods were happy and more even, and he was not
experiencing aggressive or irritable episodes.
(Id.). He was seeing his friends more often and
agreed to restart Neurontin and Concerta. (Id.).
During an appointment on April 10, 2014, Marnell reported
that the Neurontin was relieving his anxiety and that his
moods remained good. (Tr. 309). He had tried Concerta, but it
made him feel “weird, ” and he discontinued it.
(Id.). Grasta recommended that he continue his
current medication regimen and return in three months.
9, 2014, Marnell attended another appointment with Grasta.
(Tr. 308). He reported that he was doing “okay, ”
although he was depressed over his inability to work and earn
income. (Id.). Marnell reported that he had been
taking insulin since the end of April, and that he took
Celexa at the same time, which caused him to be more
consistent with his medication regimen. (Id.).
Grasta recommended that Marnell continue his current
medication and consider being more active. (Id.).
an appointment on November 12, 2014, Marnell reported that he
had stopped taking his medication for approximately one
month. (Tr. 356). At the time he was in a “dark place,
” but was feeling better since restarting the
medication, which “dulled” his depression.
(Id.). Grasta again encouraged Marnell to exercise
and recommended that he return in three months.
(Id.). In February 2015, Marnell reported that had
once again stopped taking his medication but had resumed
sometime in January. (Tr. 357). He reported feeling good and
that he had a gym membership and planned to start exercising
20, 2015, Marnell returned for another appointment with
Grasta. (Tr. 361-62). He reported that he was doing okay, but
that he had been off of his medication for approximately two
months and had been experiencing low moods and suicidal
ideation without plans. (Id.). Marnell expressed
that he did not believe he was living up to his potential. A
mental status examination was normal. (Id.). Grasta
recommended that he restart his medication, attempt to
volunteer one hour a week, mentor younger individuals with
depression, and attend ACCESS for job coaching.
met with Grasta on July 1, 2015. (Tr. 363-64). He reported
that he was tired, had low energy, and had not been taking
his insulin or Celexa as prescribed. (Id.). He
reported that his mother was going to assist him to restart
his medication regimen and that he was in the process of
appealing the denial of his request for benefits.
(Id.). Marnell continued to spend time with friends
and to participate occasionally in family activities.
(Id.). Grasta instructed Marnell to restart Celexa
and to take Neurontin as needed for anxiety and foot pain.
Elmwood Medical Associates, PC
5, 2013, Marnell attended an appointment with Mentesinet
Woldeyohannes (“Woldeyohannes”), MD, MPH, his
primary care physician. (Tr. 263-66). Marnell reported that
he had not been taking his medication for the previous two
months, but had restarted them and had been monitoring his
diet and did not have any significant complaints.
(Id.). Treatment notes indicate that Marnell
suffered from obesity, hypertension, depressive disorder,
hyperlipidemia, hypothyroidism, and Type II diabetes
mellitus. (Id.). Woldeyohannes recommended that
Marnell continue his current medication and diet.
returned for a follow-up visit on September 5, 2013. (Tr.
270-73). During the visit, he again reported that he had not
been taking his medication for the previous two months.
(Id.). Woldeyohannes “strongly advised”
Marnell to take his medication as directed and to be
regularly monitored by an endocrinologist. (Id.).
Marnell had no complaints, and Woldeyohannes advised him to
maintain his current medication regimen and to maintain a
healthy diet and exercise regularly. (Id.).
attended follow-up appointments with Woldeyohannes on
December 18, 2013, and March 14, June 13, and October 9,
2014. (Tr. 274-80, 301-04, 334-37). During those
appointments, Marnell generally reported that he was
compliant with his prescribed medication and denied suffering
from any significant symptoms. (Id.). Woldeyohannes
advised him to maintain his medication regimen and to diet
and exercise. (Id.).
Rochester General Medical Group
2, 2014, Marnell attended an appointment with Eric M.
Griffith (“Griffith”), NP, at the Rochester
General Medical Group Diabetes Care and Resource Center. (Tr.
297-300). Treatment notes indicate that Marnell suffered from
Type 2 diabetes with peripheral neuropathy complications.
(Id.). Marnell reported that he had not been
monitoring his blood glucose levels. (Id.). The
notes indicate that Marnell had experienced gastrointestinal
intolerance to Bydureon and Metformin SR. (Id.).
Griffith recommended that Marnell begin to monitor his blood
glucose level three times a day and begin an exercise
program. (Id.). Griffith prescribed Metformin ER and
Lantus and advised Marnell to contact him if he experienced
any gastrointestinal issues. (Id.).
returned for an appointment with Seth S. Charatz
(“Charatz”), DO, on June 26, 2014. (Tr. 305-07).
During the appointment, Marnell reported his blood glucose
levels and reported no gastrointestinal issues.
(Id.). Charatz assessed that Marnell's diabetes
was uncontrolled and advised him to increase his Lantus
dosage, continue taking Metformin and Glipizide, and begin
taking Farxiga. (Id.).
Medical Opinion Evidence
Christine Ransom, PhD
8, 2013, state examiner Christine Ransom
(“Ransom”), PhD, conducted a consultative
psychiatric evaluation of Marnell. (Tr. 250-53). Marnell
reported that he drove to the examination. (Id.).
Marnell also reported that he had completed four and one-half
years of college, but had difficulty maintaining employment