United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Chattanooga
CHRISTOPHER H. STEGER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
seeks supplemental security income under Title XVI of the
Social Security Act (“Act”), 42 U.S.C.
§§ 1381 et seq. The parties have consented to entry
of final judgment by the United States Magistrate Judge under
the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), with any appeal to
the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [Doc. 16]. Pending
before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary
Judgment [Doc. 13] and Defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment [Doc. 17].
reasons stated herein, the Court will
REVERSE the Commissioner's decision and
REMAND for further proceedings consistent
with this opinion. Accordingly, the Court
GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion [Doc. 13] as
stated herein and DENIES Defendant's
Motion [Doc. 17].
13, 2012, Plaintiff protectively filed for supplemental
security income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the
Social Security Act (“Act”), 42 U.S.C.
§§ 1381 et seq., with an alleged onset date of
November 18, 2011 (Tr. 167-172). Section 1631(c)(3) of the
Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3), provides for judicial
review of a “final decision” of the Commissioner
of the Social Security Administration (“SSA”).
Plaintiff's claims were denied initially and upon
reconsideration (Tr. 75, 87). On October 3, 2014, following a
hearing held on July 25, 2014, administrative law judge
(“ALJ”), Henry Kramzyk, found that Plaintiff was
not under a “disability” as defined in the Act
(Tr. 9-20).2 Plaintiff had sought disability due to
illiteracy, IQ score of 69, depression, anxiety, anti-social
disorder, and that he met the requirements of Listing 12.05C
(Tr. 232-233). On March 22, 2016, the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review (Tr. 1-4). Thus, Plaintiff
exhausted his administrative remedies, and the ALJ's
decision stands as the final decision of the Commissioner
subject to judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
Age, Education, and Past Work Experience
time of the hearing before the ALJ on October 3, 2014,
Plaintiff was 53 years old. He was 50 years old at the time
of his alleged onset of disability on November 18, 2011, and
he has past relevant work as a dish washer/kitchen helper. He
completed the eighth grade, having repeated the third and
seventh grade twice (Tr. 298).
Testimony and Medical History
November 15, 2012, Plaintiff was evaluated as having a full
scale IQ of 69, which is considered “extremely
low” intellectual functioning (Tr. 301). In his
disability report, Plaintiff alleged disability based on
nerves, depression, and illiteracy (Tr. 185). Plaintiff's
girlfriend helped Plaintiff fill out his function report
because he cannot read or write beyond a very basic level.
Plaintiff reported he lived with his mother, watched
television, fed and petted his pets, performed personal care
without assistance when reminded by his mother to do so, and
prepared sandwiches and frozen dinners (Tr. 191-93, 195). He
also wrote that he performed yard work when “Mom tells
me to, ” and if he doesn't, he “get[s]
whipped” (Tr. 194). He also reported he went outside
daily, went shopping for groceries once a month, and he
checked the box on the activities form indicating that he
could pay his bills and count change; however, he reported he
could not handle a savings account and use a checkbook
“cause I can't read or wright [sic]” (Tr.
193-94). It is unclear what bills he paid since he lived with
his mother and later his girlfriend. There is no evidence in
the record that he has ever lived independently. For
Plaintiff, paying bills may simply mean that he paid for
groceries on his monthly shopping trip. It could mean
something else. The record is undeveloped on this subject.
reported he did not spend time with others and did not get
along with authority figures. He checked the box that he had
no problem getting along with family, friends, and neighbors,
and that he had never been fired due to inability to get
along with others (Tr. 195-97). Plaintiff also reported
during his November 15, 2012, evaluation that, in his last
job as a dishwasher, he “cussed out” his boss
(Tr. 300). On the activities form, Plaintiff reported he went
to church twice per week (Tr. 195). He reported also that he
could not finish what he started, or follow instructions or
pay attention. (Tr. 196-97). Plaintiff thought he handled
stress “very badly, ” but handled changes in
routine “very well” (Tr. 197).
August 27, 2012, work history report, Plaintiff wrote that he
worked labor and lawn maintenance jobs from 1990 to 1996,
washed dishes from 1998 to 2000, and engaged in carpentry
work and building clean-up in 2000 and 2001 (Tr. 205). On
November 21, 2012, Jenaan Khaleeli, Psy.D., a state agency
psychological consultant, reviewed Plaintiff's records
and opined that Plaintiff had no episodes of decompensation;
mild limitations in activities of daily living; moderate
limitations in social functioning and concentration,
persistence, or pace; and moderate limitations in the ability
to interact with the public, the ability to accept
instructions and criticism, the ability to get along with
others and to engage in socially appropriate behaviors (Tr.
80-81). Upon reconsideration, Amin Azimi, Ed.D., reviewed
Plaintiff's records and opined on February 13, 2013, that
Plaintiff had no episodes of decompensation and moderate
limitations in daily living, social functioning, and
concentration, persistence, or pace (Tr. 92-93). Dr. Azimi
found Plaintiff had severe impairments of anxiety and
antisocial personality disorder, unspecific organic mental
disorder, and a substance addiction disorder (Tr. 91).
records predating Plaintiff's July 13, 2012, application
date show that he received mental health treatment from
October 2009 to October 2010 when he was incarcerated (Tr.
237-291). Plaintiff told providers that he had been in and
out of prison since 1984 (Tr. 237). He said that he had
previously received disability benefits but that they were
terminated when he went to jail in 1988 (Tr. 247). Plaintiff
reported working part-time in 2010 (Tr. 251). In May and July
2010, he reported doing odd jobs for people with whom he went
to church (Tr. 267, 269, 284). He also reported that he took
care of his mother and did things around the house (Tr. 267).
after Plaintiff's application date shows that he saw Dee
Langford, Ed.D., for a psychological consultative examination
on November 15, 2012 (Tr. 297-303). Plaintiff reported that
he had received disability benefits for about a year
beginning in 1987 until he was incarcerated (Tr. 297).
Plaintiff told the doctor that he completed the eighth grade
and had difficulties in school with truancy and fighting (Tr.
298). He said that he repeated grades three and seven, but he
denied attending special education classes (Tr. 298).
Plaintiff listed legal charges of driving on a revoked
license, aggravated assault on police officers, assault with
attempted murder, and possession of stolen property (Tr.
told Dr. Langford that he received mental health treatment
before his incarceration, before his insurance ran out when
he was locked up. (Tr. 299). The ALJ noted in his decision
that Plaintiff had failed to fill out the paperwork to keep
his state sponsored insurance. Plaintiff was living with his
mother in a trailer (Tr. 298). He reported he had not had
alcohol in about nine years. (Tr. 298). He reported homicidal
and suicidal ideations with no intent or plans (Tr. 299).
Plaintiff denied hallucinations, and the doctor noted that he
did not appear to experience delusional thinking (Tr. 299).
Plaintiff described his mood as sad, anxious, and depressed
(Tr. 299). He reported daily activities of watching
television, cleaning around the house doing “odds and
ends, ” walking to the park, going to the store,
cooking, washing dishes, sweeping, doing laundry, mowing the
grass, and going to church (Tr. 300). He said that he could
manage his medications and his finances with little
difficulty (Tr. 300), “but he might need
supervision” with his finances. (Tr. 303). Plaintiff
lost his driver's license due to driving infractions (Tr.
300). Dr. Langford stated, “[h]e has seemingly
exhibited anti-social behaviors for years, causing him to
have been incarcerated at least 14 times. He appears to have
had a sporadic work history, interspersed with these
incarcerations, mostly related to his alcohol use” (Tr.
mental status examination, Dr. Langford found Plaintiff was
oriented and cooperative and displayed good eye contact (Tr.
299-300). He had normal speech and flat mood (Tr. 299-300).
Plaintiff's responses were coherent and easy to
understand, although also simplistic and concrete (Tr. 299).
Plaintiff's thought processes were clear and logical (Tr.
299). He recalled his date of birth and social security
number and knew how many months were in a year, but not how
many weeks in a year (Tr. 299). Plaintiff could follow
spoken, but not written, directions (Tr. 299). He could name
common objects, but he showed poor use of basic vocabulary
and poor basic math skills (Tr. 299).
revealed that Plaintiff obtained a full-scale IQ score of 69
on the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, 4th edition (Tr.
301) . His reasoning abilities on verbal tasks were generally
in the extremely low range, while his nonverbal reasoning
abilities were in the low average range (Tr. 302). Dr.
Langford stated the evidence showed that Plaintiff fell into
the extremely low range of intellectual functioning and that
he had mild problems with short-term memory and moderate
concentration problems (Tr. 299-300). The doctor found
moderate impairment in long-term memory (Tr. 300, 302). Dr.
Langford wrote that Plaintiff had a moderate impairment in
social relating and a marked impairment in his ability to
adapt to change (Tr. 303). Diagnoses included generalized
anxiety disorder, dysthymic disorder, and a rule-out
diagnosis of mild mental retardation (Tr. 303). She assigned
Plaintiff a GAF score of 45 (Tr. 303).
started receiving mental health treatment on July 15, 2013,
when he presented for a psychological evaluation with Sheila
Beard, a licensed professional counselor (Tr. 387-399).
Plaintiff reported that he had anger issues and had taken
medication for his depression and mood swings in the past
(Tr. 387). He told Ms. Beard that he was sent to prison in
2005 for charges of driving under the influence and
aggravated assault (Tr. 387). He was jailed again in 2010 for
driving on a revoked license and parole violation (Tr. 387).
He spent 22 months in prison, and was released in June 2012
(Tr. 387). Plaintiff reported that he had an eighth grade
education, could read at a third grade level, and had a
suicide attempt in 1981 (Tr. 388).
examination, Ms. Beard observed that Plaintiff's
appearance and behavior were appropriate, and he had no
orientation problems (Tr. 394). Plaintiff's thought
process was organized (Tr. 395). His speech was soft and
slow, and he had sad and anxious affect (Tr. 394).
Plaintiff's mood was dysthymic, and he endorsed
hallucinations, worthlessness, and hopelessness (Tr. 395).
Plaintiff endorsed suicidal ideation, but denied intent or
plan (Tr. 395, 397). Ms. Beard noted that Plaintiff was neat
and clean in appearance and appeared somewhat anxious (Tr.
395). She wrote that Plaintiff denied being physically
aggressive with anyone since his release from jail (Tr. 395).
Plaintiff reported sometimes hearing voices and seeing
“human distorted looking figures. Ms. Beard diagnosed
major depressive disorder (Tr. 397-98).
medication services appointment the next day, Plaintiff
reported that he was depressed, agitated, irritable, and more
angry (Tr. 376). He denied violent behaviors (Tr. 376).
Plaintiff reported that he heard auditory hallucinations, but
they were mostly mumbling and he could not make out what they
were saying (Tr. 376). Plaintiff said that he and his
girlfriend tried to get out and camp and fish (Tr. 376). He
said that he worked “here and there” doing
construction work and yard work, or whatever he could pick up
on July 16, 2013, revealed that Plaintiff had normal thought
processes, judgment, insight, orientation, and mood and
affect (Tr. 378-79). He was not homicidal, suicidal, or
violent (Tr. 379). Jennifer Miller, a nurse, prescribed
amitriptyline (Tr. 381). Notes indicate that Plaintiff was
scheduled to attend group therapy on July 22, 2013, but he
did not show up for the appointment (Tr. 373). Plaintiff
attended a case management appointment on July 29, 2013, but
he did not attend his group therapy appointment scheduled for
the same day (Tr. 365-67, 370). At an August 12, 2013, case
management appointment, Plaintiff reported that he had
improved sleep and decreased depression with his medication,
and he denied experiencing any symptoms since starting
medication (Tr. 363). Likewise, at his appointment the next
day with Ms. Miller, Plaintiff reported that he was doing
"pretty good" on his medicine and was less cranky
(Tr. 357). He denied suicidal or homicidal ideation and
hallucinations (Tr. 357). Examination revealed that he had
normal speech, thought processes, judgment, insight,
orientation, mood, and affect (Tr. 359). Notes stated that he
had improved mood, was euthymic, and was not irritable (Tr.
did not show for his August 19, 2013, group psychotherapy
appointment (Tr. 356). Plaintiff reported increased anxiety
on August 26, 2013, due to conflict with his mother and
sibling, and he said that he and his girlfriend would be
moving soon (Tr. 354). At his September 9, 2013, case
management appointment, Plaintiff again reported high anxiety
due to family conflict (Tr. 352). However, he said his
medications continued to help, and he denied any symptoms of
dangerousness (Tr. 352). Plaintiff did not attend two
scheduled group psychotherapy appointments in September 2013
(Tr. 350-51). Plaintiff was not home for his scheduled case
management visit on September 23, 2013, so Sandra Austin,
B.S., spoke with his girlfriend (Tr. 348). His girlfriend
said that Plaintiff was resistant to moving because he
thought it would disrupt his disability case (Tr. 348).
Plaintiff reported that his mood had been stable at his
October 7, 2013, case management ...