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Naeve v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Colorado

February 3, 2016

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


          RAYMOND P. MOORE, District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Barbara Naeve's ("Plaintiff") request for judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff challenges the final decision of Defendant Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, by which she denied Plaintiff's applications for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act ("Act"). An Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") ruled Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act and therefore not entitled to DIB.

         Defendant provided the Court with the administrative record. (ECF Nos. 10; 10-1; 10-2; 10-3; 10-4; 10-5; 10-6; 10-7; 10-8; 10-9; 10-10; 10-11; 10-12; 10-13; 10-14; 10-15; 10-16.) The parties have fully briefed the matter and it is ripe for adjudication. (ECF Nos. 15; 16; 19.)

         For the reasons set forth below, the Court vacates Defendant's denial of Plaintiff's DIB application and remands for further proceedings consistent with this Order.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiff applied for DIB in July 2010, alleging she was disabled as of May 31, 2007, due to the following conditions that limit her ability to work: right arm injury and complex regional pain syndrome ("CRPS"), and depression. (Admin. R. ("Tr.") 84, 91, 185-93.) After Plaintiff's application was initially denied, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an ALJ. (Tr. 106-08, 110-11.) The ALJ denied Plaintiff's application. (Tr. 8-30.) Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ's decision and, in November 2013, the Appeals Council denied such review. (Tr. 1-7, 39.) Plaintiff timely requested judicial review before the Court.

         A. Background and Relevant Medical Evidence

         Plaintiff was born in 1961. (Tr. 49.) Plaintiff completed eleventh grade. (Tr. 51.) Plaintiff's past relevant work history, as referenced in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, includes: administrative clerk, payroll clerk, and accounting clerk/bookkeeper. (Tr. 71-72.)

         Plaintiff claims she became disabled on May 31, 2007 due to a combination of physical and mental health impairments. (Tr. 84, 91, 185-93.)

         1. Physical Impairments

         In February 2007, Plaintiff experienced pain in her right fingers and wrist, which was not resolved with splinting, stretching, or rest. (Tr. 1009.) In April 2007, Plaintiff filed a workers' compensation claim based on her right arm impairment. (Tr. 1009.) Plaintiff was diagnosed with a tendon-related impairment of the right wrist which was corrected with surgery in August 2007. (Tr. 407-10.) Plaintiff's physician cleared her to return to work in December 2007 on modified duty. (Tr. 465.)

         In January 2008, Plaintiff sought additional treatment for her right wrist pain and paresthesia. (Tr. 705-09.) Plaintiff underwent additional treatment and surgery. (Tr. 613-19.)

         In February 2009, Plaintiff was diagnosed with CRPS type II. (Tr. 610-12, 739-43.) Plaintiff reported that pain block injections, medication, and therapeutic treatment was either ineffective or caused intolerable side effects. (Tr. 697-703, 733, 1009.) Between 2009 and 2011, Plaintiff continued to complain of right arm pain which did not respond to treatment. (Tr. 756-808, 872, 1031-35, 1046-56.)

         In March 2009, Douglas Hemler, M.D., examined Plaintiff and assigned Plaintiff a 15 percent whole person impairment rating based on her hypersensitivity and functional use of her non-dominant hand and her behavioral reaction to that impairment. (Tr. 743.)

         In December 2010, state-agency consultant Anthony LoGalbo, M.D., a physician, opined that Plaintiff could lift and carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, mainly using the left arm and "using right [arm] to assist and stabilize; occasionally lift, push, pull, reach, handle, and finger with her right arm but with no repetitive use of the right arm. (Tr. 93-95.)

         In December 2010, Edwin Healey, M.D. a physician, opined that Plaintiff was currently unable to work due to her "chronic pain and psychological symptoms and sleep disorder." (Tr. 982-97.)

         In July 2011, John Hughes, M.D., a physician, opined that Plaintiff was capable of gainful employment with the restrictions "on handwriting, typing, and grasping using the left hand to 30 minutes out of each hour and the right hand 10 minutes out of each hour." (Tr. 1124-32.)

         On September 23, 2011, Plaintiff's attorney memorialized a conversation between him and Dr. Greg Reichardt regarding Plaintiff which Dr. Reichardt signed. (Tr. 1059-60.) Dr. Reichardt opined that Plaintiff should not frequently (no more than 30 percent of the time) use her right arm, should perform no more than occasional keyboarding with her right hand, and should not work in cold environments; however, the restrictions state that Plaintiff could use her left arm normally. (Tr. 1060.) Further, as a result of Plaintiff's "chronic pain, she has experienced depression, sleep difficulties and social withdrawal." (Tr. 1060.)

         In November 2011, Alan Lichtenberg, M.D., a physician, opined that Plaintiff was permanently and totally disabled due to chronic pain, psychological symptoms, and a sleep disorder. (Tr. 1100-15.)

         In July 2012, Plaintiff received a pain block ...

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