United States District Court, D. Colorado
BRADLEY L. YUTZY, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
T. BABCOCK, JUDGE
Bradley Yutzy appeals the final decision of the Acting
Commissioner of Social Security (“SSA”) denying
his application for disability benefits under Title II of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401, et seq. I
have considered the parties' briefs [ECF Nos. 16-17, 20]
and the administrative record [ECF No. 13]
(“AR”). Oral argument would not materially assist
me in determining this appeal.
Yutzy contends that the administrative law judge
(“ALJ”) erred (1) by improperly analyzing the
opinion of a treating psychiatrist, Dr. Jeffrey Harazin; (2)
by failing to consider the opinion of an agency psychologist;
(3) by failing to properly consider the opinions of Mr.
Yutzy's former employer and his former coworker regarding
his ability to work; (4) by improperly assessing Mr.
Yutzy's credibility; and (5) by arriving at contradictory
factual findings at different steps of the sequential
reasons described below, I agree with the first four
arguments, but I reject the fifth. Accordingly, I REVERSE the
SSA's decision and REMAND for further proceedings
consistent with this opinion.
Yutzy filed his claim for disability benefits with SSA in
December 2012, alleging disability beginning November 23,
2012. AR 94-95. After SSA initially denied his claim, AR
40-50, Mr. Yutzy requested a hearing, AR 54-55. The hearing
took place on May 15, 2014, before an ALJ. AR 25-39. At the
hearing, Mr. Yutzy requested a closed period of disability,
from November 23, 2012, through March 24, 2014. AR 29. On
June 5, 2014, the ALJ denied Mr. Yutzy's claim,
concluding that Mr. Yutzy was not disabled within the meaning
of the Social Security Act. AR 12-24. Mr. Yutzy asked
SSA's Appeals Council to review the ALJ's decision.
AR 10-11. On November 20, 2015, the Appeals Council denied
review, AR 1-5, making the ALJ's decision the final
decision of SSA. Doyal v. Barnhart, 331 F.3d 758,
759 (10th Cir. 2003). On January 18, 2016, Mr. Yutzy timely
filed this appeal. [ECF No. 1]. I have jurisdiction pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
a period of significant personal stress in spring 2012, Mr.
Yutzy's mental health deteriorated. He was admitted to a
psychiatric hospital on April 30, 2012, with a Global
Assessment of Functioning score of 15 on a scale of 1-100 and
diagnoses of bipolar disorder and anxiety disorder. AR 160,
164. After he was discharged from the hospital, he moved to
Colorado to live with his parents. AR 30. He began working as
a general laborer for his father's company, but according
to his father, he could not complete even simple tasks like
painting a wall. AR 195-96.
Yutzy's father explained:
I worked with him to the best of my ability. In the end I
realized that he was truly disabled and couldn't be
productive for me or any other employer. I had to let him go
in the fall of 2012. The Homestead Group couldn't afford
the continual mistakes, or someone to watch him 100 percent
of the time.
AR 196. Mr. Yutzy's brother, who also worked for the same
company, explained that he tried to “train and teach
him how to do simple tasks” like painting, digging, and
unloading materials, but Mr. Yutzy could not effectively
perform those tasks. AR 197.
Yutzy's requested disability period begins on November
23, 2012, after he stopped working for his father's
company. After he left that job, he met with Dr. Harazin
roughly every two to four weeks for treatment for his bipolar
disorder and anxiety. Dr. Harazin initially prescribed Mr.
Yutzy various medications to stabilize his mood and treat his
anxiety, but the medications either didn't work, had
severe side effects, or both. AR 180-83; 190; 192; 201-03.
The prescribed medications included Abilify, AR 181, Prozac,
id., Zyprexa, AR 180, and Latuda, AR 203. The
progress notes from that period indicate that Mr. Yutzy's
mood was labile, e.g., AR 180, he was often tired,
e.g., AR 181, and he was at times anxious, AR 182,
confused, AR 190, and “hypomanic, ” AR 203. The
notes also reflect that at times he had a “poor
response to meds.” AR 202.
2013, a state agency psychologist, Dr. Mark Berkowitz,
reviewed Mr. Yutzy's file. Dr. Berkowitz concluded Mr.
Yutzy was not “sufficiently stable to handle full-time
work, ” but Dr. Berkowitz did not believe the
limitations would last more than 12 months given Mr.
Yutzy's “good pre-morbid work history and steady
improvement.” AR 45.
July 2013, Dr. Harazin completed a “mental impairment
questionnaire.” AR 184-89. Dr. Harazin opined that some
of Mr. Yutzy's impairments would preclude performance of
certain tasks for a complete workday. AR 187-88. He concluded
that Mr. Yutzy was at least partially impaired in his ability
to “remember work-like procedures, understand and
remember simple or complex instructions, maintain attention,
comply with a schedule, sustain a routine, work with others,
make decisions, and work without an unreasonable number of
breaks. Id. He also opined that Mr. Yutzy's
impairments would last longer than 12 months. AR 186.
January 2014, Dr. Harazin prescribed Mr. Yutzy Seroquel XR.
This helped to stabilize his mood, but caused excessive
fatigue. AR 201. Dr. Harazin then switched Mr. Yutzy to a
different form of Seroquel in February 2014. Id. Mr.
Yutzy quickly stabilized and improved. Id. At his
appointment on March 24, 2014, Dr. Harazin observed that Mr.
Yutzy was “doing well. States change to Seroquel worked
well.” Id. After the March 2014 appointment,
Mr. Yutzy returned to full-time work. AR 34.
SSA's Five-Step Process for Determining Whether a