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Vialpando v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Colorado

December 15, 2015

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.



Plaintiff Melissa Vialpando appeals Defendant’s (the “Commissioner”) final administrative decision denying her claim for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (the “Act”). Jurisdiction in this appeal is proper pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Oral argument would not materially assist in the determination of this appeal. After consideration of the briefs and the record, I affirm the Commissioner’s decision in part, reverse it in part, and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this Order.

I. Statement of the Case

A hearing on Plaintiff’s claim was held before an administrative law judge (the “ALJ”) on January 9, 2013. On January 24, 2013, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff’s request for review thereby rendering the ALJ’s January 24, 2013 decision the Commissioner’s final decision for purposes of my review. Plaintiff timely filed this appeal seeking review of the Commissioner’s final decision.

II. Statement of Facts

A. Background

Plaintiff was born on December 22, 1971, making her 39 years old at the time of her alleged disability onset date of February 1, 2011. Administrative Record (“AR”) 20. Plaintiff completed 11th grade and has worked in the past as a caregiver, grocery bagger, certified nursing assistant, prison guard, and housekeeper in the retail industry. AR 197. Plaintiff alleged disability due to bipolar II disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and borderline personality disorder. AR 196.

B. Relevant Medical Evidence

In February of 2011, Plaintiff was first seen by Janna Tranter, a licensed professional counselor. Ms. Tranter diagnosed Plaintiff with bipolar II disorder, borderline personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder and assigned her a GAF score of 21-30. AR 273. Ms. Tranter had regular contact with Plaintiff over the next few months and gave Plaintiff a progress rating of “some progress” after each contact. AR 276-77. In January of 2012, Plaintiff began taking medication for depression and indicated that she planned to start taking medication for her bipolar disorder when she could afford it. AR 278. By April of 2012, Plaintiff had stopped taking her medication for depression, and Ms. Tranter noted that she was “much more cranky while off of it.” AR 311. A few weeks later, Ms. Tranter noted that Plaintiff was “doing well” and would come for appointments on “an as needed basis.” Id.

On April 4, 2012, Richard B. Madsen, PH.D., performed a psychological evaluation of Plaintiff in connection with her application for disability benefits. AR 279-82. At the time of Dr. Madsen’s evaluation, Plaintiff was taking the prescribed medications Topamax, Weelbutrin, and Depakote. AR 281. Upon examination, Dr. Madsen found that Plaintiff was oriented to person, time, and place and had a blunt affect; logical and relevant thought content; impaired short term auditory memory and ability to do arithmetic functions in her head; a below average to borderline level of intellectual functioning; and adequate persistence and pace. AR 281-82. Dr. Madsen diagnosed Plaintiff with bipolar disorder type II; posttraumatic stress disorder; panic disorder; and personality disorder and assessed Plaintiff with a GAF score of 60. AR 282. Dr. Madsen concluded that Plaintiff’s ability to do work-related activities was impaired but did not specify the nature or extent of her impairments. Id.

On April 18, 2012, Gayle Frommelt, Ph.D., a non-examining state agency physician, completed a mental RFC assessment for Plaintiff based on her review of the records including those from Dr. Madsen’s evaluation. AR 56-8. Dr. Frommelt assessed Plaintiff with moderate limitations in her ability to

understand and remember detailed instructions;
maintain attention and concentration for extended periods;
perform activities within a schedule, maintain regular attendance, and be punctual within customary tolerances;
work in coordination with or in proximity to others without being distracted by them;
make simple work-related decisions;
compete a normal workday and workweek without interruption from psychologically based symptoms and to perform at a consistent pace without an unreasonable number and length of rest periods;
interact appropriately with the general public;
ask simple questions or request assistance;
accept instructions and respond appropriately to criticism from supervisors;
get along with coworkers or peers without distracting them or exhibiting behavioral extremes;
respond appropriately to changes in the work setting; and
set realistic goals or make plans independently of others.

Id. Dr. Frommelt further opined that Plaintiff had the ability “to follow simple instructions, sustain ordinary routines, and make simple decisions” and to “manage social interactions that are not frequent or prolonged” but “should minimize contact with general public.” AR 58.

On May 2, 2012, Ms. Tranter competed a mental RFC evaluation for Plaintiff in which she indicated that Plaintiff suffered from bipolar II; borderline personality disorder; and antisocial personality disorder. AR 299-301. Ms. Tranter ...

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