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Brown v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Colorado

March 14, 2016

ROBERT C. BROWN, JR., Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


RAYMOND P. MOORE United States District Judge

This matter is before the Court on Robert C. Brown, Jr.’s (“Plaintiff”) request for judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (ECF No.1.) Plaintiff challenges the final decision of Defendant, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”), denying Plaintiff’s applications for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Titles II and XVI, respectively, 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 or SSI.

Defendant provided the Court with the administrative record. (ECF Nos. 11; 11-1; 11-2; 11-3; 11-4; 11-5; 11-6; 11-7; 11-8; 11-9; 11-10; 11-11; 11-12; 11-13; 11-14; 11-15; 11-16; 11-17; 11-18.) The matter is fully briefed and ripe for adjudication. (ECF Nos. 15; 18; 19.)

For the reasons set forth below, the Court vacates the denial of Plaintiff’s applications and remands for proceedings consistent with this Order.


Plaintiff applied for DIB and SSI in July 2009, alleging he was disabled as of May 30, 2008, due to the following conditions that limit his ability to work: mental issues as well as problems with his left wrist, right shoulder, and back. (Admin. R. (“Tr.”) 197-203, 231.) After Plaintiff’s applications were denied by an ALJ in 2011. (Tr. 82-96.) Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ’s decision (Tr. 157-59, 258-59), which Defendant’s Appeals Council granted and remanded the matter to the ALJ. (Tr. 101-04.) The ALJ held a new hearing in February 2013. (Tr. 51-67.) On March 7, 2013, the ALJ issued another unfavorable decision. (Tr. 12-28.) Plaintiff again requested review of the ALJ’s decision (Tr. 8-11, 260-62), which the Appeals Council denied (Tr. 1-6), making the ALJ’s March 2013 decision Defendant’s final decision for purposes of judicial review, see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 422.210(a). Plaintiff timely requested judicial review before the Court.

A. Background and Relevant Medical Evidence[1]

Plaintiff was born in 1962. (Tr. 197.) Plaintiff completed high school. (Tr. 236) Plaintiff’s past relevant work history, as referenced in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, includes: boilermaker and welder fabricator. (Tr. 60-61.)

In June 2008, Tanya Hrabal, M.D., assessed Plaintiff as suffering from bipolar depression, substance abuse, and obesity. (Tr. 275-76.) Dr. Hrabal prescribed Geodon. (Tr. 275-76, 561.)

In September 2008, Plaintiff was hospitalized after multiple visits to the emergency room with headaches. (Tr. 336.) On September 5, 2008, Maureen Kelly, M.D., discharged Plaintiff. (Tr. 336.) Dr. Kelly diagnosed Plaintiff with low back pain and indicated that an MRI of Plaintiff’s lower back showed a broad-based disc bulge with small disc herniation. (Tr. 336.)Dr. Kelly also noted that Plaintiff had psychiatric issues and that Plaintiff was previously prescribed Geodon but could not afford it. (Tr. 336.)

In October 2008, Susan Halsey, PA-C, diagnosed Plaintiff with insomnia, depression, hyperlipidemia, hepatitis C, and polysubstance abuse. (Tr. 271-72.)

In December 2008, Jesse Steffl, PA, diagnosed Plaintiff with anxiety, depression, and problems with anger. (Tr. 269-70.) Mr. Steffl prescribed Plaintiff Lexapro and Ativan and referred Plaintiff for mental-health treatment. (Tr. 269-70.)

In February 2009, Steven Martin, M.D., examined Plaintiff. (Tr. 646-49.) Dr. Martin noted that Plaintiff was dressed in clean jeans, was oriented, and had intact long-term memory. (Tr. 647-48.) Dr. Martin noted Plaintiff maintained no eye contact, picked at his fingers, frequently answered questions with an irritated “I don’t know, I can’t remember, [and] that didn’t happen, ” and did not provide much insight into and blamed others for his difficulties. (Tr.647.) Dr. Martin assessed that Plaintiff had an irritable affect, depressed mood, and poverty of ideation. (Tr. 647.) Dr. Martin stated Plaintiff was depressed and would be a risk to have in the workplace due to extreme irritability and the potential to be physically aggressive. (Tr. 648.)Dr. Martin opined that Plaintiff’s ability

to understand and remember detailed instructions is markedly limited because of his poor concentration, and his limited understanding of his need to stay focused. His ability to sustain concentration and persistence, carry out short instructions, simple work-related decisions is not limited, but to carry out detailed instructions, maintain attention and concentration, perform activities within a schedule, maintain regular attendance, sustain an ordinary routine, or work in coordination with others is all markedly limited. . . . His ability to maintain a normal workday, workweek because of all of his physical and mental disabilities is markedly limited. Social interactions, again is markedly limited.

(Tr. 648-49.)

In February 2009, James Dyde, M.D., a state-agency non-examining physician, reviewed the evidence and stated Plaintiff retained the mental ability to do work not involving significant complexity or judgment and requiring up to three months to learn techniques, acquire information, and develop the faculty needed for average job performance. (Tr. 650-67, 652.) Dr. Dyde stated Plaintiff could not work closely with supervisors or co-workers and could accept supervision and relate to co-workers so long as it was not frequent or prolonged. (Tr. 652.)

In June 2009, Jose Vega, Ph.D., completed a form in connection with Plaintiff’s application for state-financial assistance (Med-9 form), in which he stated that Plaintiff had been or would be unable to work at any job due to shoulder, wrist, and breathing ...

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