United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division
FINAL OPINION AND ORDER
F, KING UNITED STATES MACHSTHATE 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 REVERSED and
that the case be REMANDED for further
filed applications for supplemental security income in June
2010 and February 2012, alleging that he became disabled on
June 29, 2010. [Record (“R.”) at 103-13, 389,
766-74]. After numerous administrative and judicial
proceedings, including denials, hearings, and remands,
Plaintiff's pending claims were consolidated and a final
administrative hearing was held on January 9, 2015. [R. at
389, 408-40]. The Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) issued a decision denying Plaintiff's
application on June 26, 2015. [R. at 389-400]. Plaintiff
filed exceptions to the decision on August 24, 2015, but the
Appeals Council found that the exceptions were not timely and
subsequently denied a request for an extension of time to
file a civil action. [R. at 366-70, 379-81]. Plaintiff filed
his complaint in this court on October 10, 2017, seeking
judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision.
[Doc. 1]. The parties have consented to proceed before the
undersigned Magistrate Judge.
found that Plaintiff has schizophrenia, learning disorder,
anxiety disorder, and cannabis dependence. [R. at 391].
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 392-94]. Plaintiff has no past relevant
work, but the ALJ found that there are jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff
can perform. [R. at 398-99]. As a result, the ALJ concluded
that Plaintiff has not been under a disability since June 29,
2010, the date the application was filed. [R. at 399].
decision of the ALJ [R. at 389-400] states the relevant facts
of this case as modified herein as follows:
claimant is able to take care of his personal hygiene and
needs. He is able to prepare his own beverages and meals such
as coffee, sandwiches, and other simple meals that could be
prepared in a microwave oven. He keeps his room clean, washes
dishes, cleans bathrooms, and completes his own laundry
without prompting or assistance. (Testimony; Exhibit 16F at
7). He does not shop independently and currently does not
drive because he let his driver's license permit expire.
The claimant spends his daytime hours watching television,
listening to music, using the computer, or sleeping. (Exhibit
5F at 2, 3; Exhibit 5E). He helps his mother and grandmother
with most household tasks.
claimant is able to tolerate crowded and noisy places when on
medication. He said that when he is non-compliant with
medication, crowds and noise bother him. He has no close
friends, and he is unable to be around most of his male
friends because of a history of drug use and legal issues.
However, the claimant enjoys spending time with female
friends and family members. (Testimony; Exhibit 16F at 7). He
occasionally attends church service. He thinks that male
friends are jealous of him. When he is not taking his
medication, he thinks that others can see his thoughts and
psychological state. The claimant's mother reported that
his self-isolation includes staying in his bedroom
“moping” all day; however, she reported that
these symptoms improve with medication. (Exhibit 5F at 2-3).
claimant was admitted for inpatient treatment due to
schizophrenia symptoms in November 2009 and May 2010 when he
stopped psychotropic medications without a doctor's
approval and was using illicit drugs. The claimant admitted
to using cocaine four days prior to the May 2010
exacerbation, but urinary drug screens were inconclusive.
(Exhibit 2F at 16). In April 2013, he received inpatient
treatment after decompensating while using illicit drugs.
(Exhibits 18F and 19F). The claimant's condition was
stable at discharge with diagnoses of paranoid schizophrenia,
cannabis abuse, and ruled out drug-induced psychosis.
(Exhibit 3F at 2-5; Exhibit 19F). He has never received and
has refused specific treatment to address his substance
abuse. (Exhibit 22F).
claimant indicated that he last drank alcohol in 2010 and
last used illicit drugs in 2009. In the past, he held a few
part-time jobs as a restaurant cook and warehouse stocker.
The claimant stated that he could dress and bathe himself and
microwave food. He is able to vacuum the house and help his
grandmother with other household chores. He is able to watch
television, read newspapers, use the computer, and engage in
conversation with family members and relatives. He is
interested in local professional sport teams such as the
Falcons and the Braves, and he likes to watch televised
games. He attends doctor's visits, dines at restaurants,
goes to stores and movie theaters, visits family at events,
and hosts people when they visit him. The claimant contends
that he has panic attacks about three to four times per week
that last for 30 minutes to one hour. He also claims auditory
hallucinations. However, he indicated that his medication
helps with those symptoms. The claimant takes his medication
in the morning, around 9:00 a.m., and does not hear voices
until the end of the day. He indicated that there are times
when he cannot afford his medication which costs about $58.00
records from Peachford Behavioral Hospital show that the
claimant received inpatient mental health treatment in
November 2009. The claimant was paranoid, agitated, and
anxious, but he admitted using methamphetamine and marijuana
prior to developing symptoms. The claimant's symptoms
improved, and he was discharged in stable condition with
recommendations for Seroquel, Risperdal, and Vistaril.
notes from Asha Pandya, M.D., the claimant's treating
psychiatrist at Cobb Behavioral Health, show good response
and symptom control while following the prescribed medication
treatment, including Seroquel, Invega, and Vistaril from 2010
through 2013. Further records show that the claimant's
condition remains stable even despite non-compliance issues,
including not taking medicines consistently and using illicit
drugs. (Exhibits 11F, 15F, 17F, 20F, 21F, and 23F).
records from Highland Rivers Mental Health show no
significant medication adjustments during the April 2013
inpatient treatment when the claimant decompensated after
using illicit drugs. (Exhibits 18F and 19F). Subsequent
records from November 2013 show that the claimant admitted to
using cocaine several months prior but that he refused
further treatment to address his ongoing substance abuse.
(Exhibit 22F at 6).
psychological consultative evaluation completed in August
2012 by Thomas Earles, Ph.D., shows that Invega, Celexa, and
Seroquel control 90% of the claimant's psychological
symptoms. The claimant admitted missing medication about six
times per year and, when this happens, that he notices rapid
onset of psychological symptoms. The claimant's mother
reported that she sees a huge difference in the
claimant's behavior when he is on medication. (Exhibit
December 2012, the claimant reported that he is able to
ignore voices and he was discharged with a global assessment
of functioning of 60. (Exhibits 17F, 19F). He also stated in
June 2013, “When I am on my medication, I can ignore
[voices].” (Exhibit 20F). In 2013, the claimant was
hospitalized when he ran out of medications and was using
illicit drugs, but the records note that he was “back
on medication and feeling fine.” (Exhibit 21F).
facts will be set forth as necessary during discussion of