United States District Court, D. Colorado
OPINION AND ORDER REVERSING THE COMMISSIONER'S
S. Krieger Chief United States District Judge
MATTER comes before the Court on the Plaintiff's
Complaint (# 1), the Plaintiff's Opening
Brief (# 12), the Defendant's Response
(# 13), and the Plaintiff's Reply
(# 14). 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).
Larsen seeks judicial review of a final decision by the
Commissioner denying his claim for disability insurance
benefits (DIB) under the Social Security Act. In December
2012, Mr. Larsen filed for DIB, claiming he became disabled
in January 2011. Tr. at 168-76. His application was denied at
all administrative levels and he now appeals to this Court
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Court summarizes only the medical evidence relevant to its
time of his alleged onset of disability, Mr. Larsen was 58
years old. Tr. at 170. He was previously employed as a
contractor. Tr. at 243. He claimed that he was disabled due
to Meniere's Disease (along with hearing loss and
tinnitus as a result), blood clots, degenerative disc
disease, major depressive disorder, and obesity.
April 2012, Dr. Richard S. Daarud wrote a letter briefly
describing Mr. Larsen's medical issues. Tr. at 408. He
diagnosed Mr. Larsen with vertigo due to Meniere's
Disease, which causes “marked instability and precludes
him from doing his usual occupation, which is physical in
nature. He is a fall risk.” Tr. at 408. Dr. Daarud also
opined that Mr. Larsen is disabled due to this condition
because, despite treatment, there is no cure for
Meniere's Disease. Tr. at 408.
April 2012, Nurse Practitioner Michelle Fisher assessed Mr.
Larsen with regard to mental health issues. Tr. at 333-36.
Her handwritten treatment notes mostly contain Mr.
Larsen's subjective description of his symptoms. Tr. at
333. N.P. Fisher observed Mr. Larsen to be sad with low
energy, motivation, focus, and appetite, but to have no
psychosis, hallucinations, delusions, or bizarre behavior.
Tr. at 333. She also observed disheveled appearance,
psychomotor slowing, poor eye contact, flat affect,
cooperative attitude, suicidal ideation, oriented cognition,
and fair judgment. Tr. at 335. She prescribed Wellbutrin,
with which Mr. Larsen had success ten years prior, and
Trazadone. Tr. at 336. She also recommended individual
therapy. Tr. at 336. Dr. Daniel Fisher agreed with her
assessment. Tr. at 336. Other treatment notes by N.P. Fisher
do not reflect Dr. Fisher's concurrence. Tr. at 321-24,
327-28. For example, no records show concurrence with her
assessment that Mr. Larsen's symptoms improved after
treatment with Wellbutrin or that Mr. Larsen did not pursue
recommended individual therapy. Tr. at 325-26. Dr. David
Kelsall's treatment notes from June 2012 indicate that he
restricted Mr. Larsen from working in hazardous areas or high
places. Tr. at 341.
March 2014, Mr. Larsen was admitted to a hospital for chest
pain and a blood clot. Tr. at 379. Doctors treated him with
Coumadin. Tr. at 377, 379. He was discharged a week later
with instructions to continue taking Coumadin. Tr. at 373.
2014, Dr. Stuart Lerman, a state-agency nonexamining
consultant, completed an RFC assessment based on his review
of the medical record. Tr. at 100-02. He assessed Mr. Larsen
with the following postural limitations: he can climb ramps
and stairs frequently but never any ladders, ropes, and
scaffolds; he can occasionally balance; and he can frequently
stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. Tr. at 100-01. Dr. Lerman