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Brooks v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Colorado

December 16, 2014

RONI M. BROOKS, on behalf of N.N.F., a minor child, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant

For Roni M. Brooks, a minor child on behalf of N.N.F., Plaintiff: Rachael Adair Lundy, Michael W. Seckar, P.C., Pueblo, CO.

For Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant: David I. Blower, Social Security Administration-Denver, Office of the General Counsel, Region VIII, Denver, CO; J. Benedict Garcia, U.S. Attorney's Office-Denver, Denver, CO.

ORDER

Boyd N. Boland, United States Magistrate Judge.

This action seeks review of the Commissioner's decision denying the plaintiff's claim for children's supplemental security income benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. The court has jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's final decision under 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3). The matter has been fully briefed, obviating the need for oral argument. The decision is AFFIRMED.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On April 23, 2012, the plaintiff filed an application for supplemental security income benefits on behalf of her son, N.N.F., a child under age 18, with an alleged disability onset date of August 25, 2007. Social Security Administrative Record [Doc. #11] (the " Record"), pp. 102-111.[1] The plaintiff described N.N.F.'s disabilities as bipolar disorder, violent tendencies, depression, anger, learning problems, difficulty focusing, and anxiety in public. Id. at p. 133. The application was denied on September 4, 2012. Id. at p. 12. The plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (" ALJ"). Id. The hearing was held on May 4, 2013. Id. at p. 30. N.N.F. was 16 years old at the time of the hearing. Id. at p. 102. On May 23, 2013, the ALJ issued a written decision finding that N.N.F. was not disabled as defined in the Social Security Act. Id. at pp. 9-26. The Appeals Council denied the plaintiff's request for review. Id. at pp. 1-4. The ALJ's decision is final for purposes of this court's review.

N.N.F. was born on November 26, 1996. Record, p. 205. He received routine checkups and treatment for viruses, ear infections, etc., from the Pediatric Associates of Canon City beginning with his three-week check up. Id. at pp. 161-205. N.N.F. was followed at the West Central Mental Health Center (" WCMHC") for bipolar affective disorder (" BPAD"), anxiety disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (" ADHD") beginning in March 2010. Id. at pp. 210-25.

On April 26, 2011, Ardis Martin, M.D., a physician at WCMHC, documented that N.N.F. arrived with his mother for a follow up appointment. N.N.F. was 14 years old at the time. N.N.F. reported that he was doing well; was feeling tired because he had a sleepover with a friend and stayed up all night; was not depressed, anxious, or irritable; was eating and sleeping well; and denied suicidal ideation or self-injurious behavior. His mother noted that his mood had been primarily even; he had minimal mood swings; and he had only brief episodes of depression or hypomania. N.N.F. continued to be social with friends. His mother noted that he was still behind in his social skills, but his brothers were " taking him out more" and there was a decrease in sibling issues. N.N.F. was doing " okay in school, really well in classes he likes--art and science." N.N.F. felt that Ritalin helped him focus. He was taking Ritalin only for school. He was not experiencing any side effects from medications. Dr. Martin documented that N.N.F. had good grooming and hygiene; answered questions and " engaged"; had normal, non-pressured speech; had good eye contact, euthymic affect, and a good mood; had linear but concrete thought process; had fair insight and judgment; was not suffering from delusions or hallucinations; was doing well emotionally and behaviorally; and was maintaining academically. Dr. Martin diagnosed N.N.F. with BPAD II, anxiety, and ADHD (inattentive type). He was assigned a global assessment of functioning (GAF) score of 60-65.[2] He was continued on his medications (Ritalin, Abilify, and Wellbutrin) and told to follow up in eight weeks. Id. at p. 212.

N.N.F. saw Dr. Martin again on June 21, 2011. N.N.F. reported that he was doing well; enjoying the summer; playing a video game called World of Warcraft; and hanging out with his siblings, friends, and girlfriend. He finished school on-line and received good grades--80% overall. He was taking Ritalin when needed at 20 mg. per dose, but would resume the 30 mg. dose when school started. He was eating well and sleeping pretty well. He had episodes of decreased need for sleep a few times a week, but no mood issues or other manic symptoms associated with the episodes. He denied feeling depressed, anxious, or irritable. He did not have any behavioral issues and was getting along better with his siblings. Dr. Martin noted that N.N.F. had good grooming and hygiene; was bright; had a good rapport with his mother; was not defiant, irritable, or anxious; had normal, non-pressured speech; had good eye contact, a good mood, euthymic affect, and a linear but concrete thought process; had fair to good insight and judgment; was not suffering from delusions or hallucinations; and was continuing to do well. He was given the same diagnoses and a GAF score of 60-65. He was continued on his medications and told to follow up in eight weeks. Id. at p. 213.

N.N.F. was seen on September 14, 2011, by Dr. Martin. N.N.F. reported that he was doing well; had a good summer; was eating well; was sleeping well for 9-10 hours a day; denied feeling depressed, anxious, or irritable; and had good attention and school performance with Ritalin. His mother noted that his mood had been stable; his irritability with his siblings had decreased; he had not had any manic episodes; and was doing " pretty well socially." Dr. Martin noted that N.N.F. had good grooming and hygiene; was a little tired; was engaged; had good rapport with his mother; was not defiant, irritable, or anxious; had normal non-pressured speech and good eye contract; had a good mood, euthymic affect, and linear but concrete thought process; was not delusional and had no hallucinations; and had fair to good insight and judgment. He was given the same diagnoses and a GAF score of 60-65. He was continued on his medications and told to follow up in eight to twelve weeks. Id. at pp. 214-15.

Dr. Martin saw the plaintiff again on December 15, 2011. N.N.F. reported that he was doing well; had a good Thanksgiving; was tired because he stayed up late playing video games; did not feel depressed or irritable; had mild anxiety with meeting new people; and felt that Ritalin helped him focus. His mother noted that N.N.F. was able to go to Walmart and walk around on his own; had an even mood overall; over the past two weeks, had been sleeping for two hours a night a couple of times a week then sleeping the next day; had not had mood changes or other manic symptoms; was possibly going through a growth spurt since he had been sleeping more; was eating normally; was getting along pretty well with his brothers; and had average to below average scores in his school work on some subjects, but planned to catch up over the Christmas break. N.N.F.'s mother stated that she agreed Ritalin helped him focus. Dr. Martin discussed watching for episodes of decreased need for sleep as well as other signs of mania. He noted that N.N.F. had good grooming and hygiene; was tired, engaged, and had good rapport with his mother; did not show defiance, irritability, or anxiety; had normal, non-pressured speech; had good eye contact, good mood, and euthymic affect; had linear but concrete thought process; did not have delusions or hallucinations; and had fair to good insight and judgment. N.N.F. was given the same diagnoses and a GAF score of 60-65. He was continued on his medications and told to follow up in eight to twelve weeks. Id. at pp. 215-16.

On March 31, 2012, N.N.F. was seen in the Emergency Room of Memorial Health System by Ellen McCormick because he had a seizure while at the zoo. N.N.F. had never had a seizure prior to this instance. He was awake and alert in the Emergency Room. Dr. McCormick discharged him that day. She stated that Wellbutrin slightly increased the risk of seizures and she suggested that N.N.F. stop taking Wellbutrin until she could talk to the physician that prescribed it. She ordered him to follow up with his primary care provider. Id. at pp. 152-158.

N.N.F. was seen by Dr. Martin on April 11, 2012. N.N.F. reported that he was doing well. His mother noted that since the Wellbutrin was discontinued, N.N.F. had been experiencing a worsening of his sleep and mood; there were 24 hour periods when he did not sleep, then two to ten hours of sleep with return of energy; he was more irritable and aggressive; he was eating okay; and he had been more distractible, especially in elevated states. N.N.F. did not recall having low moods except when he was not getting along with his siblings. He noted occasional suicidal ideation during those encounters, but had no intent or current ideation. Dr. Martin documented that N.N.F. was well groomed; had good hygiene; was easily distracted with mild fidgeting but no defiance or acting out; had fair engagement, normal non-pressured speech, and normal eye contact; had a good mood, euthymic affect, and linear but concrete thought process; did not have delusions or hallucinations; and had fair to good insight and judgment. N.N.F. was given the same diagnoses and a GAF score of 50-55. The Ritalin was continued; the Abilify dose was increased; and N.N.F. was put on a low dose of Trileptal for further mood stabilization. N.N.F. was told to follow up in three weeks. Id. at pp. 216-17.

Subsequently, N.N.F. was seen again at WCMHC.[3] N.N.F. reported that he was doing well. His mother reported that he was doing better but was still easily annoyed and depressed when disappointed by his brothers or when he did not want to do certain activities. He tolerated the increase in Abilify and the start of Trileptal. He was sleeping better, eating okay, and concentrating okay. He reported feeling upset when his brother let him down and had thoughts of wanting to die, but denied a desire to die. His mother noted that he was more irritable and easily annoyed by those around him. His denied feeling depressed without reason; the depression was always triggered. His mother noted that his EEG was normal and that they planned to follow up with a neurologist to figure out why he had a seizure. The care provider documented that N.N.F. was well groomed with good hygiene; was easily distracted with mild fidgeting; had no defiance or acting out; was able to stop play and talk about behaviors, feelings, and suicidal thoughts; had some difficulty expressing himself, but did try and was engaged; had normal non-pressured speech, good eye contact, good mood, and euthymic affect; had linear but concrete thought process; had no delusions or hallucinations; and had fair to good insight and judgment. N.N.F. was given the same diagnoses and a GAF score of 50-55. A discussion was held about the benefits of N.N.F. returning to therapy. The Ritalin and Ability were continued and the Trileptal was increased for better mood control. Id. at p. 218.

Subsequently, N.N.F. was seen again at WCMHC.[4] N.N.F. reported that he was doing well. He tolerated the increase in Trileptal with good effect and no side effects. His mother felt that he was doing better. N.N.F. denied feeling depressed or anxious. He also denied suicidal ideation. He was eating well and sleeping well unless he stayed up playing video games. His mother noted that his mood had been " more up but overall stabilized." He did not experience mania and had occasional mild hypomania. His concentration was normal. N.N.F. noted mild irritability when his siblings teased him, but it was getting better. The care provider documented that N.N.F. was well groomed; had good hygiene; was engaged, brighter, more focused and on task, and had good rapport with his mother; had normal non-pressured speech and good eye contact; had a good mood, an euthymic affect, and linear but concrete thought process; did not have delusions or hallucinations; and had fair to good insight and judgment. N.N.F. was given the same diagnoses and a GAF score of 60. His medications were continued and he was told to follow up in eight weeks. Id. at p. 224.

In August 2012, the State agency psychological and medical consultants, James Wanstrath, Ph.D., and Chrys Synstegard, M.D., opined that N.N.F. had less than marked limitations in (1) acquiring and using information because he did okay in school when on medications; (2) attending and completing tasks because although he had some problems with focus, his medications helped; (3) interacting and relating with others because he had clear speech; (4) caring for himself because he was capable of performing his activities of daily living and does okay when on medications but has problems with self-regulation; and (5) health and physical well-being because although he does not have limitations based on ...


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