United States District Court, D. Colorado
OPINION AND ORDER REVERSING THE COMMISSIONER'S
S. Krieger United States District Court Judge.
MATTER comes before the Court on the Plaintiff's
Complaint (# 1), the Plaintiff's Opening
Brief (# 14), the Defendant's Response
(# 15), and the Plaintiff's Reply
(# 16). For the following reasons, the
Commissioner's decision is reversed and the matter is
remanded for further proceedings.
Court has jurisdiction over an appeal from a final decision
of the Commissioner under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Smith seeks judicial review of a final decision by the
Commissioner denying his claims for supplemental security
income (SSI) under the Social Security Act. In October 2007,
Mr. Smith filed for SSI, claiming he became disabled in
October 2006. Tr. at 322-24. Though the Appeals Council twice
remanded the ALJ's decision for further proceedings, then
denied review of the ALJ's decision dated July 29, 2016,
which became the final decision of the Commissioner.
time of his alleged onset of disability in 2006, Mr. Smith
was 31 years old. Tr. at 322. He was previously employed as a
dishwasher and a warehouse supervisor. Tr. at 382. The Court
summarizes only the evidence relevant to Mr. Smith's
mental impairments, noting that there is no opinion from any
January 2008, Mr. Smith saw Dr. Richard Madsen, a consulting
examiner, for a psychological evaluation. Tr. at 568-70. Dr.
Madsen observed Mr. Smith to be oriented to person, place,
and time, and able to recall the date and the name of the
president. Tr. at 569. He found Mr. Smith's affect to be
anxious and depressed but nonpsychotic. Tr. at 569. Mr. Smith
was able to recall personal information and count accurately,
but his ability to perform arithmetic functions in his head
was impaired; Dr. Madsen observed his short-term auditory
memory, intellectual functioning, and abstract reasoning
ability to be average. Tr. at 569-70. Dr. Madsen found his
persistence and pace to be adequate. Tr. at 570. Based on his
examination, Dr. Madsen diagnosed Mr. Smith as suffering from
major depression, recurrent and moderate without psychotic
features, and personality disorder. Tr. at 570. He concluded
that Mr. Smith's cognitive functioning was average
although he had some difficulty with concentration, and that
his depression interfered with his ability to focus and his
energy level. Tr. at 570. As a result, Mr. Smith's
ability to maintain a regular work schedule “would be
impaired.” Tr. at 570.
October 2009, Dr. Jose Vega also performed a consultative
examination. Tr. at 634- 38. Dr. Vega observed Mr. Smith to
be oriented to time, place, and person, with a blunted affect
and depressed mood. Tr. at 636. Mr. Smith could identify the
president and Colorado governor but misidentified the vice
president. Tr. at 636. He had some difficulty spelling and
performing numerical exercises correctly. Tr. at 636-37. Mr.
Smith showed some impairment with short-term memory,
recalling three out of five words after five minutes. Tr. at
637. Dr. Vega observed that although Mr. Smith recognized
what constitutes socially appropriate behavior but responded
in ways that indicate poor judgment. Tr. at 637. His
appearance was “minimally adequate”. Tr. at 637.
Based on his examination, Dr. Vega diagnosed Mr. Smith as
suffering from a mood disorder and pain disorder associated
with psychological factors. Tr. at 638. He opined that Mr.
Smith had problems with sustained concentration and
persistence, as well as impulse control and social
interaction with others. Tr. at 637. As a result, Mr. Smith
would have problems maintaining employment “for any
extended period of time.” Tr. at 638.
Vega also completed a mental RFC evaluation. Tr. at 632-33.
He opined that Mr. Smith's understanding and memory
ranged from moderately limited in terms of understanding and
remembering simple instructions to markedly/extremely limited
in understanding and remembering detailed instructions. Tr.
at 632. With regard to concentration and pace, Dr. Vega
stated that he was moderately limited in carrying out simple
instructions but markedly to extremely limited in all other
respects. Tr. at 632. As to social interaction, Dr. Vega
opined that Mr. Smith was markedly to extremely limited in
all respects. Tr. at 633. And as to adaptation to changes in
the workplace, Dr. Vega again stated that Mr. Smith was
markedly to extremely limited in all respects. Tr. at 633.
Madsen performed another consultative examination in July
2011. Tr. at 641-46. Dr. Madsen again observed Mr. Smith to
be oriented to person, place, and time, and able to recall
the date and the name of the president. Tr. at 644. He found
Mr. Smith's affect to be blunted and consistent with a
depressed mood. Tr. at 644. His thought content was logical
and relevant, and his speech was slow, quiet, and without
energy. Tr. at 644. Mr. Smith was able to recall personal
information and count accurately, but his ability to perform
arithmetic functions in his head was again impaired. Tr. at
645. This time, Dr. Madsen observed his short-term auditory
memory to be impaired and his intellectual functioning to be
in the low average to borderline range, although Mr.
Smith's abstract reasoning ability remained functional.
Tr. at 645. Dr. Madsen found his persistence adequate, but
his pace was slow this time. Tr. at 645. Based on his
examination, Dr. Madsen diagnosed Mr. Smith as suffering from
major depressive disorder, recurrent and moderate to severe
with psychotic features at times, panic disorder with
agoraphobia, posttraumatic stress disorder, and developmental
learning disorder. Tr. at 645. He concluded that Mr.
Smith's depression and panic disorder was likely keeping
him from seeking and/or keeping employment, and that his
cognitive functioning indicates he may have a learning
disability. Tr. at 646. As a result, Dr. Madsen again opined
that Mr. Smith's ability to perform work-related
activities was impaired. Tr. at 646.
conjunction with the second consultative examination, Dr.
Madsen completed a medical source statement indicating that
Mr. Smith's ability to understand and remember simple
instructions, carry out simple instructions, and make
judgments on simple work-related decisions was mildly
limited. Tr. at 648. However, Dr. Madsen opined that these
abilities were markedly limited with regard to complex
instructions and ...