Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Chancellor v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Colorado

February 22, 2018



          Marcia S. Krieger United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Plaintiff Corrine Chancellor's appeal from the Commissioner of Social Security's (the “Commissioner”) final decision denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-33, and Supplemental Security Income under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§1381-83c. Having considered the pleadings and the record, the Court.

         FINDS and CONCLUDES

         I. Jurisdiction

         Ms. Chancellor filed a claim for disability insurance benefits pursuant to Titles II and XVI in January 2014, asserting that her disability began on December 15, 2012. After her claim was initially denied, Ms. Chancellor filed a written request for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (the “ALJ”). This request was granted and a hearing was held in December 2015.

         The ALJ's Decision applied the five-step social security disability claim evaluation process: (1) Ms. Chancellor had engaged in substantial gainful activity (“SGA”) after December 15, 2012[1]; (2) she had the severe impairments of schizoaffective disorder (bipolar type), generalized anxiety disorder, and personality disorder (not otherwise specified); (3) she did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled any of the impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpt. P, App'x 1; and (4) Ms. Chancellor had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels with various limitations, and that with this RFC, she could perform her past relevant work as a laboratory assistant. Accordingly, the ALJ determined that she was not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1565.[2]

         The Appeals Council denied Ms. Chancellor's request for review of the Decision, making the Decision the Commissioner's final decision for purposes of judicial review. Krauser v. Astrue, 638 F.3d 1324, 1327 (10th Cir. 2011). The Appeals Council also considered additional materials submitted by Ms. Chancellor and concluded that “the additional evidence did not provide a basis for changing the Administrative Law Judge's decision.” (#11-2, at p. 3.) Accordingly, the newly submitted materials are now part of the record on this appeal. Chambers v. Barnhart, 389 F.3d. 1139 (10th Cir 2004) (citing Odell v. Shalala, 44 F.3d 855 (10th Cir 1994)).

         Ms. Chancellor's appeal was timely brought, and this Court exercises jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's final decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         II. Issue Presented

         Ms. Chancellor asserts two principal arguments. First, she contends that the Decision improperly concluded that she had engaged in SGA because a significant portion of the income identified in the Decision actually was a subsidy unrelated to the value of the work that she performed. As a subsidy, it should not have been considered in determining whether Ms. Chancellor was engaged in SGA. Second, she argues that at Step 4 stage of the analysis, the ALJ improperly gave less-than-controlling weight to the opinions of her treating physicians.

         III. Relevant Material Facts

         Ms. Chancellor claims that she due to disabled by a number of mental disorders, including a generalized anxiety disorder, personality disorder and a schizoaffective disorder (bipolar type) that has caused her to experience a number of psychotic breaks. She claims the onset of this disability occurred on or before December 15, 2012. As a result of her mental illness, she has been hospitalized numerous times since May 2008, most recently in 2013 and 2014 in response to episodes of suicidal ideation. Ms. Chancellor was prescribed medication beginning in 2008 (at first, Zyprexa, Risperdal and Invega, and later, Lamictal, Seroquel and Metformin). She adheres to her medication regime relatively well, but continues to experience disabling mental limitations.

         During the applicable period, Ms. Chancellor was a student at Metropolitan State College/University (“MSU”), where she majored in graphic design (digital arts). Ms. Chancellor testified that she attended college off and on from 2000 until 2015, with a break from school from 2004 to 2009. She graduated from MSU with a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree in December 2014. Ms. Chancellor testified that she did not pursue a graduate degree because she “barely made it through” the undergraduate program.

         During 2012 and 2013, Ms. Chancellor participated in a work-study program. She first worked as a lab technician, and then as a graphic designer. In the former capacity, she sat at a desk, cleaned the labs, answered questions and filed papers. In the latter, she made lab posters, edited training videos, answered photoshop questions, took photos, edited scripts and recorded voiceovers. Ms. Chancellor indicates that she was able to balance her class load at MSU with her work-study job because she was permitted time to study and do homework at the job, especially when working as a lab technician.

         At multiple points in the record, Ms. Chancellor stressed that she experienced performance difficulties at the job. She stated that she was frequently absent or extremely tardy, she worked at a much slower pace than her coworkers, she made numerous mistakes, and she had significant difficulties communicating with other people, especially including her supervisors. At the hearing, Ms. Chancellor explained that she was able to hold her work-study job despite these difficulties because “it was really low stress, really low expectations, it's like a really easy job, and I still had symptoms….” She also suggested in her disability application materials that “[i]t has always felt like a few people helped or gave me extra slack.” Subsequent to the Decision, Ms. Chancellor submitted a letter stating that she received Americans with Disability Act (“ADA”)/Rehabilitation Act accommodations from MSU in both her academic classes and in her participation in the work-study program. She also submitted letters from the MSU administration officials to various professors informing them of her disabled status and her need for accommodation in those classes. However, there are no similar letters giving such notice to work-study advisors. Ms. Chancellor's eligibility to participate in work-study ended in December 2013, and she has not had gainful employment since.

         Ms. Chancellor's earnings records reflect that she earned $13, 171.77 in 2012, and $15, 969.22 in 2013 from the work-study program. Ms. Chancellor generally was scheduled to work thirty hours per week, and that she was only eligible for the work-study program so long as she maintained a minimum class load and achieved sufficient grades.

         Treatment records and opinions:

         Treatment records date from 2008 until December 2015. While Ms. Chancellor was a student at MSU, she was treated at the Mental Health Center of Denver and the Health Center at Auraria. In addition, she regularly saw a university psychologist. She reported suffering from paranoia and having difficulty leaving her house, low energy levels and sleeping problems that require her to get thirteen hours of sleep per day in order to function on her medication. Medical records indicate that she suffered from agitation, poor concentration and excessive worry associated with her general anxiety disorder. She also has substantial difficulty communicating and getting along with others, which manifests in her distrust and suspicion towards other people, a negative self-image, acting impulsively, displaying excessive emotionality, and instability in her relationships.

         Hospital records in November 2013 reflect that Ms. Chancellor voluntarily admitted herself due to an acute episode of suicidal ideation during which she walked into traffic. Ms. Chancellor reported that she also experienced high levels of stress due a break-up with her boyfriend and the recent death of a friend. Hospital records reflect that she reported experiencing delusions and hallucinations, and she seemed easily distracted and scored poorly on a memory test. Hospital records for April 2014 hospitalization also reflect admission due to Ms. ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.