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Warren v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Colorado

March 9, 2018

KURTIS S. WARREN, Plaintiff,
NANCY BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.



         THIS MATTER comes before the Court as an appeal from the Commissioner's Final Administrative Decision (“Decision”) determining that the Plaintiff Kurtis S. Warren 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 (#14), the Court now finds and concludes as follows:


         The Court has jurisdiction over an appeal from a final decision of the Commissioner under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Mr. Warren sought disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act based on mental and physical impairments that rendered him unable to work as of January 17, 2012. The state agency denied his claim. He requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), who issued an unfavorable decision. Mr. Warren appealed to the Appeals Council, which denied his request for review, making the ALJ's determination the final decision of the Commissioner. Mr. Warren timely appealed to this Court.


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

         Mr. Warren was born on August 14, 1963. He only attended school to the tenth grade and has worked as a plumber's assistant and a construction worker. At the time of the Decision, he worked part-time at an assisted living facility managed by his wife. He contends that physical and mental impairments prevent him from working on a full-time basis.

         Mr. Warren suffers from multiple physical impairments. In 2000, he underwent lumbar fusion surgery and was diagnosed in 2012 with degenerative disc disease. In 2013, he strained his lower back while lifting a stove and later began experiencing neck pain. He now has difficulty lifting and bending and complains of constant neck and back pain, which also radiates down his legs and to his toes. In 2008, he underwent total knee replacement surgery for his left knee and arthroscopy for his right knee. However, he still complains of knee pain. In December 2011, he began receiving treatment for chronic shoulder pain and has undergone surgery on both shoulders. He has diminished range of motion in each shoulder and began reporting in 2013 that he suffered from increasing pain in them. Mr. Warren also suffers from obesity, coronary artery disease, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and colitis.

         In addition to his physical impairments, Mr. Warren began suffering from anxiety and depression in 2011. His primary care physician, Dr. Robert Heyl, diagnosed him with bipolar affective disorder. Dr. Heyl attempted to treat Mr. Warren's condition with a variety of medications but had difficulty developing an effective treatment regimen. In 2013, Mr. Warren began receiving treatment from Dr. Lori Raney, a psychiatrist. Dr. Raney questioned Dr. Heyl's bipolar diagnosis and diagnosed Mr. Warren with generalized anxiety disorder and post- traumatic stress disorder. Later, she determined that Mr. Warren suffered from major depression and not post-traumatic stress disorder.

         Treatment and Opinions by Treating Professionals

         As stated, Dr. Raney began treating Mr. Warren in 2013. She filled out a Mental Residual Functional Capacity Statement and a questionnaire in support of Mr. Warren's disability claim. She opined that Mr. Warren's mental health prognosis was limited because of his poor response to medication and that his abilities to understand, remember, and carry out very short and simple instructions, to make simple work-related decisions, and to ask questions or request assistance preclude his performance for 5% of an eight-hour working day; his abilities to remember locations and work-like procedures, to work in coordination with or in proximity to others without being distracted by them, to interact appropriately with the general public, to get along with others without distracting them or exhibiting behavioral extremes, to maintain socially appropriate behavior, to adhere to basic standards for neatness and cleanliness, to respond appropriately to changes in the work setting, to be aware of normal hazards and take appropriate precautions, and to travel in unfamiliar places or use public transportation preclude his performance for 10% of an eight-hour working day; and his abilities to understand, remember, and carry out very detailed instructions, to maintain attention and concentration for extended periods of time, to perform activities within a schedule, maintain regular attendance, and be punctual within customary tolerances, to complete a normal workday and workweek without interruptions from psychologically based symptoms and perform at a consistent pace without an unreasonable number and length of rest periods, to accept instructions and respond appropriately to criticism from supervisors, and to set realistic goals or make plans independently of others preclude his performance for 15% or more of an eight-hour working day.

         Dr. Raney further opined that Mr. Warren would likely be absent from work five days or more each month; he would be unable to complete an eight-hour working day five days or more each month; and compared to an average worker, he could only be expected to perform a job less than 50% of the time on a sustained basis.

         Dr. Heyl has treated Mr. Warren since 2000 for his physical and mental impairments. Dr. Heyl filled out a Physical Medical Source Statement in support of Mr. Warren's disability claim. According to Dr. Heyl, Mr. Warren can sit for one to two hours at one time, stand for twenty minutes at one time, and sit and stand/walk for less than two hours total in an eight-hour working day; he must be able to walk for three to five minutes every ten minutes; he requires four to six unscheduled breaks during a workday that would each last for fifteen to twenty minutes; he is unable to lift more than twenty-five pounds but can lift five pounds continuously, ten pounds frequently, and twenty pounds occasionally; he can bend or stoop occasionally and reach rarely but should never crawl, kneel, or climb stairs or ladders; while he can use his hands for simple grasping, he cannot use them to push, pull, or finely manipulate objects; he cannot reach or work above shoulder level; he cannot use his legs for repetitive movement. Dr. Heyl further opined that Mr. Warren would be absent from work for four or more days per month.

         Opinions by ...

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