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Bolton v. Commissioner, Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Colorado

April 11, 2018

HEATHER J. BOLTON, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING DISABILITY DETERMINATION

          Marcia S. Krieger United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court as an appeal from the Commissioner's Final Administrative Decision (“Decision”) determining that the Plaintiff Heather J. Bolton is not disabled within the meaning of sections 216(i), 223(d), and 1614(a)(3)(A) 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 over an appeal from a final decision of the Commissioner under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Ms. Bolton sought disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income under the Social Security Act based on mental and physical impairments that rendered her unable to work as of March 12, 2013. The state agency denied her claim. She requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), who issued an unfavorable decision. Ms. Bolton appealed to the Appeals Council, which denied her request for review, making the ALJ's determination the final decision of the Commissioner. Ms. Bolton 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.

         Ms. Bolton was born on May 20, 1970. She obtained her GED when she was twenty-one years old and has worked as a teacher aide, line cook, and a deli cutter-slicer. She contends that mental and physical impairments prevent her from working.

         Ms. Bolton suffers from multiple mental and physical impairments. Her mental health impairments include bipolar disorder and anxiety disorder. Her physical impairments include seizure disorder, headaches or migraines, lumbar spine disorder, and degenerative disc disease.

         Treatment and Opinions by Treating Professionals

         John Martens, M.D. is a psychiatrist who began treating Ms. Bolton on May 15, 2013 for bipolar disorder, panic disorder with agora, opioid dependence (in remission), and bulimia nervosa. On May 13, 2015, he filled out a mental residual functional capacity questionnaire and a mental residual functional capacity statement in support of her disability claim.

         In the mental residual functional capacity questionnaire, Dr. Martens stated that Ms. Bolton manifested the following signs and symptoms: appetite disturbance with weight change, decreased energy, suicidal thoughts, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, impaired impulse control, persistent anxiety, mood disturbance, difficulty thinking or concentrating, recurrent recollections of past traumatic experiences, paranoia, recurrent obsessions or compulsions, substance dependence, emotional withdrawal or isolation, intense and unstable interpersonal relationships and impulsive and damaging behavior, hallucinations, emotional lability, flight of ideas, manic syndrome, deeply ingrained maladaptive patterns of behavior, vigilance and scanning, pressures of speech, easy distractibility, autonomic hyperactivity, memory impairment, sleep disturbance, oddities of though, perception, speech, or behavior, decreased need for sleep, loss of intellectual ability, and recurrent severe panic attacks.

         Dr. Martens also opined in the mental residual functional questionnaire that:

• Ms. Bolton's abilities to set realistic goals or make plans independently of others, maintain socially appropriate behavior, and adhere to basic standards of neatness and cleanliness were unlimited or very good;
• her abilities to understand, remember, and carry out instructions, whether short and simple or detailed, maintain attention for two hours, maintain regular attendance and be punctual, sustain an ordinary routine without special supervision, work in coordination with or proximity to others without being duly distracted, make simple work-related decisions, ask simple questions or request assistance, accept instructions and respond appropriately to criticism from supervisors, be aware of normal hazards and take appropriate precautions, deal with stress of semiskilled and skilled work, interact appropriately with the general public, travel in unfamiliar places, and use public transportation were limited but satisfactory;
• and her abilities to remember work-like procedure, complete a normal workday and workweek without interruptions from psychologically based symptoms, perform at a consistent pace without an unreasonable number of length or rest periods, get along with co-workers or peers without unduly distracting them or exhibiting behavior extremes, respond appropriately to changes in a routine work setting, and deal with normal stress were severely limited.

         He further opined that she would be absent from work because of her impairments about four days per month.

         In the mental residual functional statement, Dr. Martens opined that:

• Ms. Bolton's abilities to interact appropriately with the general public, ask simple questions or request assistance, accept instructions and respond appropriately to criticism from supervisors, get along with co-workers or peers without distracting them or exhibiting behavioral extremes, maintain socially appropriate behavior, and adhere to basic ...

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