United States District Court, D. Colorado
OPINION AND ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING THE
S. KRIEGER, SENIOR 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).
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.
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).
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).
The ALJ's Decision
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
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;”