United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division
FINAL OPINION AND ORDER
F. KINO UNITED STATES MACHSTKATE JUDGE.
in the above-styled case brings this action pursuant to
§ 205(g) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §
405(g), to obtain judicial review of the final decision of
the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration which
denied his disability application. For the reasons set forth
below, the court ORDERS that the
Commissioner's decision be AFFIRMED.
filed an application for a period of disability and
disability insurance benefits on April 23, 2014, alleging
that he became disabled on October 1, 2013. [Record
(“R.”) at 20, 168-69]. After Plaintiff's
application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, a
hearing was held by an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) on July 19, 2016. [R. at 20, 35-64]. The
ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's claim on
September 14, 2016, and the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review on August 30, 2017. [R. at
1-6, 20-29]. Plaintiff filed a complaint in this court on
October 24, 2017, seeking judicial review of the
Commissioner's final decision. [Doc. 3]. The parties have
consented to proceed before the undersigned Magistrate Judge.
found that Plaintiff has affective disorder, anxiety
disorder, substance abuse (not material), and residuals of
right shoulder arthroscopy and decompression. [R. at 22].
Although these impairments are “severe” within
the meaning of the Social Security regulations, the ALJ found
that Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart
P, Appendix 1. [R. at 23-24]. The ALJ found that Plaintiff is
unable to perform any of his past relevant work. [R. at 28].
However, the ALJ found that there are jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff
can perform. [R. at 28-29]. As a result, the ALJ concluded
that Plaintiff has not been under a disability from October
1, 2013, the alleged onset date, through the date of the
ALJ's decision. [R. at 29].
decision of the ALJ [R. at 20-29] states the relevant facts
of this case as modified herein as follows:
claimant has been diagnosed with major depressive disorder,
recurrent, moderate and generalized anxiety disorder.
(Exhibit 5F at 4). At the psychological consultative
examination on July 30, 2014, the claimant reported
difficulties with depressed mood, diminished interests,
difficulty sleeping, fatigue, diminished ability to think or
concentrate, and forgetfulness. (Id. at 2). At the
consultative examination, he appeared depressed and anxious
with a restricted affect and a slightly withdrawn
interpersonal style. (Id. at 3, 4). The claimant was
hospitalized in April 2014 and twice in August 2015 after
overdosing on prescription medication. (Exhibit 13F at 4;
Exhibit 12F at 8, 39). The claimant has a history of
substance abuse, specifically prescription medication abuse.
At his hospitalization in April of 2014, the claimant was
noted as having a history of abusing prescription medication
and had detoxed from his medications prior to his
hospitalization. (Exhibit 14F at 4). At his hospitalization
on August 14, 2015, the claimant's wife reported that he
was missing Amitriptyline and Percocet pills. (Exhibit 12F at
claimant has a lengthy history of right shoulder pain with
complaints of pain going back to 2011. (Exhibit 1F). On
August 18, 2011, the claimant underwent right shoulder
arthroscopy and subacromial decompression surgery. (Exhibit
2F at 2). The claimant has continued to allege chronic pain
in his right shoulder with pain management visits. In March
2012, the claimant had only 50% rotation with moderate pain
in his right shoulder. The claimant was prescribed Lortab for
his shoulder pain. (Exhibit 7F at 16, 20). In September 2012,
the claimant again continued to report pain in his shoulder
despite his surgery the year before. (Id. at 22). In
January 2013, the claimant wanted to discuss additional pain
medication and was prescribed Percocet. (Exhibit 7F at 25).
The claimant has consistently had poor range of motion in the
right shoulder in April 2013, July 2013, and October 2013.
(Id. at 29, 31, 38). In October 2014, the claimant
presented with right shoulder pain and could not move his
arm. (Id. at 59).
claimant underwent a neurological evaluation with Dr. Yazan
Houssami in January 2016 when the claimant was noted as
having a mild hand tremor. Spiral drawing testing was
consistent with “very mild action tremor.”
(Exhibit 16F at 4). Dr. Houssami diagnosed the claimant with
a tremor, unspecified, but also noted that it was not
interfering with the claimant's activities of daily
claimant reported that he spends most of his time taking care
of his children and is able to complete personal hygiene care
such as dressing, bathing, and grooming independently.
(Exhibit 5F). The claimant also reported being able to
perform household chores such as doing the dishes, laundry,
preparing basic meals, shopping for groceries, and managing
the household finances. (Id.). The claimant
testified at the administrative hearing that he has
difficulty engaging socially with others. The claimant's
wife testified that, in the last five or six years, the
claimant was not engaging in church activities or with their
children. She also testified that he will attend family
events but will not engage with the people there. However,
the claimant reported to the consultative examiner that he
socializes with others a few times each week, that he has
several close friends, and that his interpersonal style was
generally friendly and polite and only slightly withdrawn.
(Exhibit 5F at 3).
November 2014, the claimant reported frequent panic attacks.
(Exhibit 4E). The claimant testified at the hearing that he
is unable to work due to his anxiety disorder and severe
depression. On average, the claimant has five days a week
when he does not feel like getting out of bed. The claimant
further testified that, even on medication, he has panic
attacks two to three times a day that last from one hour to
four or five hours and that he is unable to concentrate to
watch television for two hours.
record contains four letters from the claimant's treating
physician Dr. Thomas Bantly. But these letters do not include
specific clinical observations or mental status exam
findings. (Exhibits 8F, 9F, and 14F). In June 2014, Dr.
Bantly indicated that the claimant restarted treatment in
February with depressive symptoms. The physician also stated
that the claimant “has had a loss of full psychological
functions and appears to be unable to leave the house and
deal with work related activities.” (Exhibit 8F at 1).
Dr. Bantly stated in a letter dated January 10, 2015, that
the claimant has been on a number of medications, including
fluoxetine, amitriptyline, olanzapine, mirtapeine, lithium,
olanzapine, trazadone, Strattera, Seroquel, and Geodon.
However, Dr. Bantly stated that these medications were
unsuccessful and that the claimant developed shaking as a
result of Geodon. (Id. at 2).
Bantly submitted a third letter dated April 16, 2015, which
contained information from his prior two letters as well as
an indication that the claimant has had only moderate success
with a trial of Requip and amitriptyline 75 mg. Dr. Bantly
also indicated that the claimant has continued to have
tremors and that there was a concern for Parkinson's
Syndrome. (Exhibit 9F). In the letter from April 2015, Dr.
Bantly stated that the claimant has had a flat affect and
poor cognitive abilities in addition to being unable to
handle the stresses and pressures of day-to-day work
activity. Lastly, Dr. Bantly submitted a letter dated January
22, 2016, in which he stated that the claimant meets the
requirements of Listing 12.04 in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart
P, Appendix 1. Dr. Bantly also provided a summary of the
claimant's condition. (Exhibit 14F). Dr. Bantly wrote
that the claimant complained of increased depressive
symptoms, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. According to
the physician, the claimant's memory and ability to
sustain concentration were impaired and he developed
significant cognitive side effects which resulted in his over
medicating. Dr. Bantly also stated that the claimant has
depression, psychomotor retardation, flat affect, anhedonia,
social isolation, and memory deficiencies. (Id. at
claimant was hospitalized for overdoses of prescription
medication from April 29 through May 5, 2014, for one day on
August 9, 2015, and for two days on August 14, 2015. (Exhibit
12F at 3, 10; Exhibit 13F at 4). However, the record is
inconsistent regarding whether the claimant had worsening
depression leading to an intentional overdose or if he was
having cognitive side effects leading to an unintentional
overdose. (Exhibit 13F at 6; Exhibit 14F at 2). The record
shows that the claimant improved with treatment during his
hospitalizations and was discharged with an okay mood and
appropriate affect. Thought process and content were within
normal limits, and he denied any suicidal or homicidal
ideation. (Exhibit 13F at 5).
Norman Lee performed a psychological consultative examination
of the claimant in July 2014. Dr. Lee stated that the
claimant was cooperative, had fair eye contact, had normal
speech, had fair concentration, and was alert throughout the
evaluation. (Exhibit 5F). Dr. Lee found that the claimant had
depressed and anxious mood, restricted affect, and an
interpersonal style that was only slightly withdrawn.
Montreal Cognitive Assessment testing indicated that the
claimant's global cognitive functioning was generally
intact. (Id.). Dr. Lee opined that the claimant is
capable of understanding, remembering, and carrying out basic
and complex directions; has mild to moderate limitations in
the ability to concentrate for an extended amount of time,
maintain an appropriate pace, and persist on more difficult
tasks; and has a satisfactory ability to interact adequately
with coworkers and the general public. (Id.).
physician Dr. Chris Crooker opined that the claimant is a
good candidate for disability and should be allowed to apply
for it. (Exhibit 15F). Dr. Crooker also stated that the
claimant has been unable to use his arm since 2012 and that
he has a hand tremor that makes it impossible to perform fine
finger movements. Dr. John Shih performed a consultative
examination on July 14, 2014, and found that the claimant had
normal grip strength, normal fine and gross manipulation, and
some loss of range of motion. (Exhibit 4F).
agency medical consultant at the initial determination opined
that the claimant is capable of performing work at the medium
exertional level with occasional overhead reaching with the
right arm and that he should avoid concentrated exposure to
hazards. (Exhibit 2A). A State agency medical consultant at
the reconsideration determination opined that the claimant is
capable of performing work at the light exertional level with
frequent climbing of ramps and stairs; never climbing of
ladders, ropes, and scaffolds; frequent balancing, stooping,
kneeling, crouching, and crawling; and frequent overhead
reaching with the right arm. The claimant should avoid
concentrated exposure to pulmonary irritants and hazards.
(Exhibit 5A). A State agency psychological consultant opined
at the initial determination that the claimant's mental
impairments result in moderate restrictions in activities of
daily living and difficulties in maintaining concentration,
persistence, or pace. (Exhibit 2A).
facts will be set forth as necessary during discussion of
Standard of Review
individual is considered to be disabled if he is unable to
“engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason
of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment
which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted
or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not
less than 12 months[.]” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).
The impairment or impairments must result from anatomical,
psychological, or physiological abnormalities which are
demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory
diagnostic techniques and must be of such severity that the
claimant is not only unable to do his previous work but
cannot, considering age, education, and work experience,
engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which
exists in the national economy. See 42 U.S.C.
§§ 423(d)(2) and (3).
review the Commissioner's decision to determine if it is
supported by substantial evidence and based upon proper legal
standards.” Lewis v. Callahan, 125 F.3d 1436,
1439 (11th Cir. 1997). “Substantial evidence
is more than a scintilla and is such relevant evidence as a
reasonable person would accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Id. at 1440. “Even if the
evidence preponderates against the [Commissioner's]
factual findings, we must affirm if the decision reached is
supported by substantial evidence.” Martin v.
Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir.
1990). “‘We may not decide the facts anew,
reweigh the evidence, or substitute our ...