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Krysten D. v. Saul

United States District Court, N.D. New York

January 7, 2020

KRYSTEN D., Plaintiff,
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, [1] Defendant.

          Krysten D., Plaintiff Pro Se

          Kristina Cohn, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Social Security Administration Office of General Counsel Attorney for the Defendant


          Hon. Norman A. Mordue, Senior United States District Court Judge.


         Plaintiff Krysten D. filed this action on November 26, 2018 under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), challenging the denial of her application for supplemental security income (“SSI”) under the Social Security Act (“the Act”). (Dkt. No. 1). Acting pro se, Plaintiff submitted a Form Complaint for appeal of a decision by the Commissioner of Social Security, requesting judicial review and entry of judgment for such relief as may be proper. (Id.). Despite several reminders, Plaintiff failed to submit a brief in support of her appeal. The Commissioner submitted its brief on June 11, 2019. (Dkt. No. 14). After carefully reviewing the administrative record, (Dkt. No. 10), the Court reverses the decision of the Commissioner and remands for further proceedings.


         A. Procedural History

         Plaintiff applied for SSI benefits on July 24, 2014, alleging that she became disabled on January 1, 2014. (R. 331). The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denied Plaintiff's claim on February 12, 2015, and again on reconsideration on October 2, 2015. (R. 357, 363). Plaintiff appealed, and a hearing was held on July 14, 2017 before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Peter R. Lee. (R. 297-329). On November 29, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled. (R. 18-30). Plaintiff's subsequent request for review by the Appeals Council was denied. (R. 2-4). Plaintiff then commenced this action. (Dkt. No. 1).

         B. Plaintiff's Background and Testimony

         Plaintiff alleged that she became unable to work on January 1, 2014 due to fibromyalgia, depression, and polycystic ovarian syndrome. (R. 443). Plaintiff was born in 1978 and is a high school graduate, with past work experience as a video store clerk, café worker, and cleaning repair service worker. (R. 444, 461). She indicated that she stopped working in 2007 because she couldn't handle work and taking care of her child. (R. 443).

         At the administrative hearing, Plaintiff testified that she suffers from multiple personality, dissociative disorder, anxiety with panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and bipolar disorder. (R. 306). She said she took anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications, which made her drowsy. (R. 307). She stated that she attended therapy once a week, which helped her stress level and agoraphobia. (R. 307). Plaintiff testified that she also suffers from fibromyalgia and that muscle relaxers did not help the pain. (R. 311-12). She complained of panic attacks every other day and migraine headaches a few times a week. (R. 315-16). Plaintiff testified that she heard voices constantly, which distracted her from what she's doing. (R. 320).

         Plaintiff testified that she prepared simple meals, had a friend who helped clean the home, and was able to shop for food with help from her son. (R. 321). She stated that she watched television and watched her son play video games. (R. 322). Plaintiff reported that she read ten to twelve books a month. (R. 323).

         Plaintiff's friend, Wally Feliz, also submitted a form in support of her application. (R. 469). He stated that Plaintiff took care of her teenage son, although he was very self-sufficient. (R. 470). According to Mr. Feliz, Plaintiff prepared simple meals, performed household chores, shopped for groceries once a month, and managed her finances. (R. 471-72). He stated that Plaintiff enjoyed reading, watching movies, and playing video games. (R. 473). Mr. Feliz indicated that the effects of Plaintiff's medication and her pain caused her difficulties with many activities. (R. 474). He also stated that Plaintiff gets confused easily and handles stress poorly. (R. 474-75).

         C. Medical Evidence

         1. Dr. Anthony Candela, Neuropsychologist

         On January 7, 2015, Plaintiff saw neuropsychologist Dr. Anthony Candela for an evaluation. (R. 724). She reported panic attacks and being nervous around people. (R. 724) Plaintiff relayed that she stopped outpatient therapy several months ago, and that she stopped taking her psychiatric medications due to problems with her medical insurance. (R. 724-25). She stated that she lived with her boyfriend and her 15-year-old son, and she had been the victim of domestic violence by her ex-boyfriend. (R. 725).

         On examination, Plaintiff had pressured and intense speech, but was alert and oriented, spoke in full sentences, and had a good fund of knowledge. (R. 725). Dr. Candela found that Plaintiff was “functioning on a Low Average Level of Intellectual Ability.” (R. 725). Plaintiff denied any hallucinations, delusions, psychosis, or schizophrenia. (R. 725). Dr. Candela noted that Plaintiff's affect was stressed, her mood was anxious and agitated, and her “insight, judgment, and reasoning were limited.” (R. 725-26). As to activities, she performed chores with help from her son and boyfriend, occasionally socialized with a few friends, and could travel independently, but preferred not to. (R. 726). Dr. Candela diagnosed panic attacks, without agoraphobia, generalized anxiety disorder, and depressive disorder. (R. 726).

         2. Michael D'Adamo, State Medical Consultant

         On February 10, 2015, State agency medical consultant Michael D'Adamo reviewed the evidence of record and opined that Plaintiff had a moderate restriction to activities of daily living, mild difficulties in maintaining social functioning, moderate difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace, and no repeated episodes of decompensation. (R. 335). Dr. D'Adamo opined that Plaintiff could perform work that involved slower paced jobs. (R. 340).

         3. St. Mary's Behavioral Health Services

         On March 13, 2015, Plaintiff was seen at St. Mary's Behavioral Health Services for mental health treatment for complaints of anxiety, depression, rage, agoraphobia, and to reinitiate medication. (R. 728-29, 747, 750). The record lists a psychiatric diagnosis of Psychosis, with current treatment by Advanced Practice Nurse (“APN”) Sharon Katz and Therapist Mirel Goldstein. (R. 728-29). Plaintiff reported auditory and visual hallucinations, delusions, and frequent manic symptoms. (R. 739). On March 20, 2015, Plaintiff reported several anxiety/panic attacks and mood swings. (R. 744). On March 24, 2015, Plaintiff returned to see APN Katz. (R. 750). On examination, Plaintiff had normal speech, intact memory, fair judgment, fair insight, logical thoughts, and normal affect. (R. 752). Her mood was anxious, fearful, depressed, and cooperative. (R. 752). APN Katz diagnosed Major Depressive Disorder, Anxiety, and OCD. (R. 753).

         On March 26, 2015, APN Katz assigned Plaintiff the same diagnoses and prescribed Klonopin, Cymbalta, and Seroquel. (R. 769, 777). On March 31, 2015, APN Katz reported that Plaintiff had normal speech, intact memory, fair judgment, fair insight, logical thoughts, and normal affect. (R. 778). Her mood was anxious, fearful, ...

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