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Lydon v. Commissioner, Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Colorado

August 14, 2019

SANDRA LYDON, Plaintiff,



         THIS 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.


         The Court has jurisdiction over an appeal from a final decision of the Commissioner under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).


         A. Procedural History

         Plaintiff Sandra Lydon (“Ms. Lydon”) seeks judicial review of a final decision by the Defendant Commissioner (“Commissioner”) denying her claim for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under the Social Security Act. In February 2015, Ms. Lydon filed for DIB, claiming she became disabled as of October 10, 2012. (# 9-6 at 173-76). Following a hearing held on April 26, 2017 before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), Ms. Lydon received an unfavorable decision in May 2017 (“Decision”). (# 9-2 at 14-26). Ms. Lydon appealed that Decision to the Appeals Council. However, on April 25, 2018, the Appeals Counsel denied her Request for Review. (# 9-2 at 1-7). Ms. Lydon now appeals the final agency action to this Court.

         B. Factual Background

         The Court offers a brief summary of the facts here and elaborates as necessary in its analysis. Ms. Lydon was born in July 1965. (# 9-6 at 173). She was 47 years old on her initially-alleged disability onset date in October 2012 and 51 years old at the time of the ALJ's Decision. (# 9-6 at 173). She has a high school education and work history as a head cashier for a building supply retail store. (# 9-7 at 193, 220).

         On October 10, 2012, Ms. Lydon had surgery to treat a cystocele (a prolapsed bladder) with mesh and a suburethral sling. (# 9-8 at 299-306). Due to surgical complications including unusually significant pain radiating down her right leg, Ms. Lydon underwent a second surgery the following day to remove a suture that was compressing a nerve. This ultimately led to an injury to her sciatic nerve. (# 9-8 at 308; # 9-10 at 442). Ms. Lydon continued to have chronic pain and spasms and has undergone the following multiple subsequent surgeries: October 2013 (mesh removal) (# 9-12 at 551-555, 588); December 2013 (posterior repair and sling) (# 9-12 at 553-554; # 9-13 at 600); March 2014 (repair prolapse using tissue rather than mesh) (# 9-13 at 607); and April 2014 (drain implanted but failed to work properly) (# 9-13 at 617). As a result of numerous complications from these procedures, Ms. Lydon had urinary and rectal catheters placed and must self-catheterize daily. Ms. Lydon reported she experiences chronic pain in her pelvis, back, and legs. (# 9-16 at 744-85; # 9-2 at 22). In addition, the record reflects mental health impairments, including a diagnosis of anxiety and depression, which are the focus of this appeal. However, since Ms. Lydon does not contest the ALJ's treatment of the medical records and opinions or the ALJ's findings of the relevant conditions and impairments, the Court need not further detail the medical record. (# 12 at 15).

         C. The ALJ's Decision

         To determine disability, the ALJ analyzed this case pursuant to the sequential five-step inquiry. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4); see also Williams v. Bowen, 844 F.2d 748, 750-52 (10th Cir. 1998) (explaining the five steps in detail). At step one, the ALJ found Ms. Lydon had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged onset date of October 10, 2012. (# 9-2 at 16). At step two, the ALJ found Ms. Lydon had the following severe impairments: pelvic organ prolapse; vaginal mesh placement and removal; pudenal neuralgia; carpal tunnel release; and right shoulder surgery. (# 9-2 at 17). The ALJ also noted that Ms. Lydon has been diagnosed with anxiety and depression. However, the State agency psychological consultant found this impairment to be non-severe, and the ALJ concurred giving this assessment “great weight.” (# 9-2 at 17).

         At step three, the ALJ found Ms. Lydon's impairments did not meet or equal the severity of a listed impairment in the appendix of the regulations. In making this finding, the ALJ considered Ms. Lydon's mental impairments, finding she had mild limitations in the activities of: “understanding, remembering, or applying information;” “interacting with others;” ...

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