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Tyrus S. v. Commissioner, Social Security Administration

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

August 5, 2019

TYRUS S., Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff 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 proceedings.

         I. Procedural History

         Plaintiff 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.

         11. Facts

         The ALJ 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].

         The decision of the ALJ [R. at 389-400] states the relevant facts of this case as modified herein as follows:

         The 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.

         The 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).

         The 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).

         The 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 per month.

         Treatment 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. (Exhibit B1F).

         Progress 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).

         Additional 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).

         A 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 16F).

         In 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).

         Additional facts will be set forth as necessary during discussion of Plaintiff's arguments.

         III. ...

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