United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
CAROL L. ALLEN, Plaintiff,
NANCY BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
WAVERLY D. CRENSHAW, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is Carol L. Allen's Motion for Judgment
on the Administrative Record (“Motion”) (Doc. No.
12), filed with a Memorandum in Support (Doc. No. 13).
Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”)
filed a Response in Opposition to the Motion. (Doc. No. 14.)
On July 31, 2014, this case was referred to a Magistrate
Judge. (Doc. No. 3.) The Court hereby withdraws that
referral. In addition, upon consideration of the parties'
filings and the transcript of the administrative record (Doc.
No. 10),  and for the reasons stated herein, the
Court will grant the Motion. (Doc. No. 12.) The
Commissioner's decision is reversed and remanded pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for further proceedings consistent
with this Memorandum Opinion.
filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act
on December 10, 2010, alleging a disability onset of December
30, 2007, which was later amended to January 20, 2010. (Tr.
11.) Allen's claim was denied at the initial and
reconsideration stages of state agency review. (Tr. 47-50,
61-63.) Allen subsequently requested de novo review
of this case by an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). The ALJ heard the case on January 22,
2013, and Allen appeared with counsel. (Tr. 27-44.) Allen and
an impartial vocational expert testified at the hearing.
(Id.) At the conclusion of the hearing, the ALJ took
the matter under advisement until March 5, 2013, when the ALJ
issued a written decision finding Allen not disabled. (Tr.
11-22.) That decision contains the following enumerated
1. The claimant last met the insured status requirements of
the Social Security Act on December 31, 2012.
2. The claimant did not engage in substantial gainful
activity during the period from her alleged onset date of
January 20, 2010 through her date last insured of December
31, 2012 (20 C.F.R. 404.1571 et seq.).
3. Through the date last insured, the claimant had the
following severe impairments: depression, anxiety,
post-traumatic stress disorder, diabetes mellitus, minimal
degenerative joint disease of right shoulder, sacralization
of the lumbar spine, arthritis of the knee, obesity, and
psoriasis (20 C.F.R. 404.1520(c)).
4. Through the date last insured, the claimant did not have
an impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled 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).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that, through the date last insured, the
claimant had the residual functional capacity to perform
light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(b) with the
following additional limitations: may occasionally climb ramp
or stairs, but must never climb ropes, ladders or scaffolds;
may occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl;
must avoid all exposure to extreme temperatures, vibrations,
pulmonary irritants and hazardous [sic] such as dangerous
machinery; and understand, remember and perform simple and
detailed one to three steps tasks, able to maintain
concentration for at least two hours, able to sustain an
ordinary work routine around others and make acceptable
simple and detailed work-related decisions, able to
appropriately interact with the general public and
supervisors, able to handle infrequent changes and travel,
may have occasional disruptions from psychological symptoms,
and able to maintain basic standards of neatness and
6. Through the date last insured, the claimant was capable of
performing past relevant work as an optometry technician and
customer clerk. This work did not require the performance of
work-related activities precluded by the claimant's
residual functional capacity (20 C.F.R. 404.1565).
7. The claimant was not under a disability, as defined in the
Social Security Act, at any time from January 20, 2010, the
alleged onset date, through December 31, 2012, the date last
insured (20 C.F.R. 404.1520(f)).
13, 15, 21.)
30, 2014, the Appeals Council denied Allen's request for
review of the ALJ's decision, thereby rendering that
decision the final decision of the SSA. (Tr. 1.) This civil
action was thereafter timely filed, and the Court has
jurisdiction. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
of the Record
has a long history of depression and anxiety due to physical
and sexual abuse as a child. (Tr. 158-59, 174-77, 230-31.) In
October 2010, she presented at Life Care Family Services
suffering from depressed mood, crying spells, anhedonia,
sleep disturbance, irritability, loss of motivation, fatigue,
social isolation, difficulty concentrating, hopelessness,
fear of dying, and panic attacks. (Tr. 230.) As a result, she
was diagnosed with major depressive disorder, anxiety
disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder
(“PTSD”), with a global assessment of functioning
(“GAF”) score of 45. (Tr. 231.) Allen continued
to struggle with severe depression, inattentiveness, anxiety,
and trouble sleeping. (Tr. 308, 331, 338-39, 341, 343.) Her
doctor prescribed medication for her depression and anxiety.
(See Tr. Ex. 1F.) She also participated in
psychotherapy sessions with Dr. Daniel Wood from 2008 to
2012. (Tr. 244, 340, 516.)
Michael Loftin performed a consultative psychological
evaluation of Allen on April 8, 2011. (Tr. 242.) Dr. Loftin
observed that Allen was oriented to person, place, and mostly
to time, was alert, appeared at least mildly irritated, and
her thought processes included seemingly clear and logical
thinking. (Tr. 245.) Dr. Loftin noted that Allen was able to
perform some tasks successfully, such as spelling her name
backwards, recalling all three named items immediately after
they were said to her, and correctly spelling
“world.” (Id.) However, he also noted
that she performed poorly in the Digit Span tasks, was unable
to spell “world” backwards, and was only able to
recall one of three previously named objects after a
three-minute delay. (Id.) Allen reported to Dr.
Loftin that she has constant problems with her short-term
memory and concentration abilities. (Id.) Dr. Loftin
found that she showed evidence of moderate impairment in her
short-term memory, mild to moderate impairment in her ability
to sustain concentration, mild to moderate impairment in her
long-term and remote memory functioning, moderate impairment
in her social relating, and moderate impairment in her
ability to adapt to change. (Tr. 248-49.) He stated that
Allen's mood at the time of the evaluation appeared
depressed, anxious, and irritable, and her affect was mood
congruent, sad, and irritated. (Tr. 245.) Dr. Loftin reported
that he found no evidence of malingering throughout the
interview, but noted that Allen was very forward in
providing/volunteering information about her condition during
pauses in questioning or before questioning about her
symptoms began. (Id.) Dr. Loftin also noted that she
did not seem to put forth full effort during the digit span
test, but she seemed to put forth a reasonable effort in
other parts of mental status screening and throughout the
interview. (Id.) He ultimately diagnosed her with
anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder and measured
her GAF at 50 to 52. (Tr. 247.)
Andrew Phay, a medical consultant, examined Allen's
records on April 25, 2011. (Tr. 252-68.) He also diagnosed
Allen with major depressive disorder and anxiety disorder.
Dr. Phay ultimately opined that Allen appeared able to
remember locations and work like procedures and understand
and remember simple and detailed one to three step tasks;
perform simple and detailed one to three step tasks; maintain
concentration for at least two hours, perform routine daily
activities and complete a normal work week with acceptable
performance/productivity; sustain an ordinary work routine
around others and make acceptable simple and detailed
work-related decisions; appropriately interact with the
general public, supervisors, and peers in the work place with
occasional disruptions due to psychologically based symptoms;
maintain basic standards of neatness and cleanliness; be
aware of and appropriately respond to changes and hazards in
the work place on an infrequent basis; travel to unfamiliar
places; and set and pursue realistic work goals in the work
setting. (Tr. 268)
October 25, 2012, Dr. Wood, Allen's treating
psychotherapist, completed a psychological evaluation which
he based on “nearly five years of observations,
impressions, and appraisals of Ms. Allen's participation
in diagnostic clinical interviews, participation in
psychotherapy, mental status assessments and ongoing symptom
evaluation.” (Tr. 517.) He diagnosed her with PTSD,
major depressive disorder, and panic disorder with
agoraphobia and stated that “current diagnoses and
associated symptoms represent a significant source of
distress and impairment in social and potential occupational
functioning.” (Tr. 518-519.) He measured her GAF at 50.
(Tr. 516.) He opined that she had major limitations in her
ability to react appropriately to stressful situations,
accept instructions and respond appropriately to criticism
from supervisors, and complete a normal work day and work
week without interruptions from psychologically-based
symptoms and to perform at a consistent pace without an
unreasonable number and length of rest periods. (Tr. 521.)
Dr. Wood also opined that Allen had serious limitations in
her ability to maintain her attention and concentration for
extended periods of two-hour segments, and to get along with
co-workers or peers without distracting them or exhibiting
behavioral extremes. (Tr. 521.) He also stated the following:
Notable and affective symptom presentation includes commonly
reported sadness, hopelessness, discouragement, “down
in the dumps, tearfulness, fearfulness, and pessimism.”
Behavioral expression of these affective symptoms is
noteworthy since they directly degrade functional capacity by
compromising motivation, judgment, and quality of life.
Further, significant ...