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Franks v. Berryhill

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Northeastern Division

March 2, 2017

STEPHEN A. FRANKS, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          NEWBERN MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

          MEMORANDUM OF OPINION

          KEVIN H. SHARP, CHIEF JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff Stephen A. Franks' (“Franks”) Motion for Judgment on the Administrative Record (“Motion”) (Doc. No. 16), filed with a Memorandum in Support (Doc. No. 17). Defendant Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) filed a Response in Opposition to Franks' Motion (Docket No. 19). This case was referred to Magistrate Judge Newbern, but the Court hereby withdraws that referral. In addition, upon consideration of the parties' filings and the transcript of the administrative record (Doc. No. 11), [1] and for the reasons given below, the Court will DENY Franks' Motion.

         I. Introduction

         On November 8, 2010 Franks filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Act, alleging a disability onset of July 15, 2010. (A.R. 40.) Franks' claim was denied at the initial and reconsideration stages of state agency review. Franks subsequently requested de novo review of his case by an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). The ALJ heard the case on June 6, 2012, when Franks appeared, was represented by an attorney, and gave testimony. (Id. at 54.) Testimony was also received from an impartial vocational expert. At the conclusion of the hearing, the matter was taken under advisement until June 22, 2012, when the ALJ issued a written decision finding Franks not disabled. (Id. at 40.) That decision contains the following enumerated findings:

1. Franks meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2014.
2. Franks has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date (20 C.F.R. 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq.).
3. Franks has the following severe impairments: mood disorder with psychosis that is in remission (20 C.F.R. 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).
4. Franks does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R. 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
5. Franks has no physical limitations to the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform work as defined by 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(c) and 416.967(c). He is in a regular day treatment program at the mental health center and is limited to shift work. He is limited to unskilled work, involving no detailed or complex work instructions. He can tolerate no more than occasional interaction with supervisors, coworkers, or the general public.
6. Franks can perform past relevant work as a material handler, DOT #929.687-030. This work does not require the performance of work-related activities precluded by his RFC, as the vocation expert testified (20 C.F.R. 404-1565 and 416.965).
7. Franks has not been under a disability within the meaning of the Social Security Act from July 15, 2010 through the date of this decision (20 C.F.R. 404.1520(f) and 416.920(f)).

(Id. at 42-49.)

         On December 24, 2013, the Appeals Council denied Franks' request for review of the ALJ's decision, thereby rendering that decision the final decision of the SSA. (Id. at 4.) This civil action was thereafter timely filed, and the Court has jurisdiction. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         II. Review of Record

         The following summary of Franks' medical record is taken from the ALJ's decision. (A.R. 45-48.)

[Franks] was involved in a court-ordered behavioral health treatment program from July 7 to December 16, 1998; however he failed to follow-up with treatment after August 20, 1998. A psychiatric evaluation performed on May 9, 2000, indicated that he had been hospitalized four times for suicidal ideation and difficulty with anger control. His GAF at that time was estimated at 52, consistent with moderate symptoms . . . He was hospitalized from August 9 to August 17, 2001. Inappropriate behavior has resulted in the hospital admission, with discharge diagnoses noted for bipolar disorder mixed with psychotic features, and pedophilia. . . . At his discharge his GAF was 65, indicating some mild symptoms but generally functioning pretty well . . . A psychiatric update on August 30, 2011, indicated a history of bipolar disorder, rule out schizoaffective disorder and PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder). His GAF at that time was 40, consistent with serious symptoms and some impairment in reality testing or communicating. He was in a treatment program and said he was compliant with his medication regimen. He began a three-day program on December 18, 2011, to stabilize him and adjust his medications.
At the time of his psychiatric hospital admission on November 15, 2003, [Franks] was exhibiting psychotic behavior. He was agitated and delusional, and appeared to attend to internal stimuli, talking and laughing inappropriately. He was not compliant with medication. He had been put on involuntary commitment. Although he attended school through the 12th grade, he was in special education classes. He had loose associations, but was able to focus for short periods. He insisted he was the President of the United States, and gave his name as the current President, although he was able to name the first President. His memory appeared good, but his insight and judgment were poor. It was questionable whether he could live independently. The diagnosis included psychosis NOS, rule out opiod abuse; and chronic mental illness with history of child molestation. His GAF was unclear but estimated at 18, indicating some danger to himself or others . . . He was discharged on November 21, 2003. . .
[Franks] has gotten into some trouble with his landlord when he was hospitalized on March 17, 2004, having chopped down all the trees in his back yard. His recent and remote memory was impaired. His thought processes were evasive and very guarded, and thought content showed extreme paranoia and delusions. His insight, judgment and impulse control were poor. He was placed on Risperdal and slowly responded. At the time of discharge he had no hallucinations or delusions, his sleep and appetite were improved, and his concentration was improved. The discharge diagnoses included schizophrenia, chronic paranoia type; noncompliance with medication, and chronic mental illness. Admission GAF was 20, consistent with some danger to himself or others. The GAF at discharge was 60, indicating moderate symptoms. . . He was discharged on March 29, 2004. He was in the care of the mental health center from 2004 to June 2006 when he moved out of that area. He remained stable but was marginally compliant with medication.
There is no evidence that [Franks] sought or received medical treatment from any physician, hospital or mental health center from June 2006 until November 2009, when he stated that he began treatment at the mental health center. . . When he was examined by George Stanford, MD, the psychiatrist, his chief concern was being unable to find a job . . . His mood was euthymic and his affect constricted. He had very literal interaction on the affective level as well as the cognitive level. The diagnoses included mood disorder NOS, history of psychosis NOS, and the GAF was estimated at 65, consisted withy mild symptoms and/or limitations . . . He was nearly out of medication and he was given renewals of his prescriptions; he was advised to got to vocational rehabilitation for help in finding work. He underwent assessment at the vocational rehabilitation service on March 4 to March 30, 2004; his score on aptitude testing were negatively affected by his slow speed. Still, he was considered suitable for work as a groundskeeper, law service worker, landscape laborer, construction worker, sanitation worker, janitor/cleaner, material handler and machine operator. At the mental health center on April 26, 2010, he repotted short episodes of hypomanic or manic symptoms with grandiosity and elevated mood. His mood was euthymic and affect matter-of-fact; his speech was clear. His though demonstrated convoluted process but there was no flight of idea or similar patterns. Insight and social judgment were fair. The GAF was estimated at 52, consistent with ...

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