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Bond v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Colorado

December 13, 2017

JEFFREY R. BOND, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER REVERSING DENIAL AND AWARDING BENEFITS

          Marcia S. Krieger United States District Court

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court as an appeal from the Commissioner's Final Administrative Decision (“Decision”) determining that Jeffrey R. Bond is not disabled within the meaning of §§216(i) and 223(d) of the Social Security Act. Having considered all of the documents filed, including the record (#12), the Court now finds and concludes as follows:

         JURISDICTION

         The Court has jurisdiction in this matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         Mr. Bond sought disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act based on mental and physical impairments that rendered him unable to work as of May 19, 2008. The state agency denied his claim. He requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), who issued an unfavorable decision. Upon appeal to the Appeals Council, the matter was remanded. The same ALJ held a second hearing and again issued an unfavorable decision. Mr. Bond again appealed to the Appeals Council, which reversed the decision and ordered that Mr. Bond's claim be assigned to a new ALJ.

         A second ALJ held a hearing on Mr. Bond's claim and issued an unfavorable decision. Mr. Bond appealed to the Appeals Council, which denied his request for review, making the ALJ's determination the final decision of the Commissioner. Mr. Bond timely appealed to this Court.

         STATEMENT OF FACTS

         The Court offers a brief summary of the facts here and elaborates as necessary in its analysis.

         Mr. Bond was born on November 19, 1981. He has a limited education and work history, having obtained his GED, attended community college for a few semesters, and worked as a technician assembling air conditioners, a bus boy at a restaurant, and a sandblasting technician at a power plant. He contends that narcolepsy, cataplexy, and depression prevent him from working.

         According to Mr. Bond, while working as a technician assembling air conditioners, he began having what he initially described as seizures. When he gets comfortable, sees a pretty girl, encounters heights, experiences anxiety, laughs, or is otherwise excited, he feels weak, feels like he is dreaming, and cannot move his limbs. He experiences these episodes up to three times each day. He has also been diagnosed with depression and takes medication to treat it.

         Treatment and Opinions by Treating Medical Professionals

         Mr. Bond was treated from September 3, 2008 to October 21, 2013 by a sleep specialist, J.F. Pagel, M.D., who diagnosed him with narcolepsy and cataplexy. Dr. Pagel provided four separate opinions. In the January 25, 2010 opinion, Dr. Pagel stated that Mr. Bond suffered from daytime sleepiness and narcolepsy but did not address how it would affect Mr. Bond's physical capabilities. On February 2, 2010, again Dr. Pagel diagnosed Mr. Bond with narcolepsy and cataplexy and stated that Mr. Bond would likely miss three days each month for work, Mr. Bond would need unscheduled work breaks once or twice a day for ten minutes because of drowsiness, and that fatigue, pain, or weakness caused by Mr. Bond's condition would affect his attention and concentration. On September 21, 2011, Dr. Pagel stated that Mr. Bond's narcolepsy and cataplexy would cause him to have one to three daytime sleep attacks each day, would interfere with his attention and concentration, and would cause him to miss work once or twice each month. Finally, on January 9, 2013, Dr. Pagel stated that Mr. Bond would miss one to three days of work each month and would need one hour rest breaks once or twice each day and that these limitations on Mr. Bond's ability to work had existed since October 2008.

         Opinions by Non-treating Medical Professionals

         Jose Vega, Ph.D. performed a mental status evaluation of Mr. Bond on January 21, 2013. He opined that Mr. Bond suffered from moderate to extreme limitations on his understanding and memory, his ability to sustain concentration and persistence, his ability to interact with the general public, supervisors, coworkers, and peers, and his ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Further, based on Mr. Bond's statements, he opined that Mr. Bond's limitations existed since 2008.

         On November 6, 2009, James J. Wanstrath, Ph.D. reviewed Mr. Bond's file but did not examine him. He noted that Mr. Bond suffered from depression and claustrophobia. However, he opined that there was insufficient evidence to find that these conditions caused any limitations on Mr. Bond's mental functioning.

         Ian Happer, M.D. also reviewed Mr. Bond's file but did not examine him. On November 2, 2009, Dr. Happer stated that Mr. Bond should not be employed in jobs involving “unprotected heights, dangerous machines or commercial driving”. However, he did not address whether Mr. Bond would need ...


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