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Bird v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Central Division

September 5, 2014

STACEY BIRD, Plaintiffs,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


NANETTE K. LAUGHREY, District Judge.

Stacey Bird appeals the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision denying her application for disability insurance benefits under 42 U.S.C. ยงยง 401-434. The Commissioner's decision is affirmed.

I. Background

Bird alleges she became disabled beginning on October 31, 2008, due to bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, and panic attacks.

Ronald Glas, M.D., treated Bird from about 2004 to 2010. Bird saw him two or three times per year, except in 2007 and 2008 when she did not see him at all. She saw him once in 2009 with complaints of high blood pressure, increased stress and back pain. She also reported depression, anger and suicidal ideation at times. Dr. Glas prescribed mood medication and ordered an x-ray of her back. Tr. 258.

Bird saw Dr. Glas again in January 2010. She reported mood swings, insomnia, and paranoia, and told Dr. Glas she stopped taking her mood medication because it caused her legs to jump. Dr. Glas prescribed different mood medication, and anticipated that it would control Bird's symptoms. Tr. 264.

In February 2010, Dr. Glas prepared a letter "to whom it may concern, " stating that Bird "has a medical need for disability" based on bipolar disorder and worsening symptoms over the previous six months, and that she was "unlikely to be employable." Tr. 267.

In a function report Bird completed in March 2010, Bird stated that she looks for work two days per week. She helps care for her live-in domestic partner, who is physically handicapped. Bird takes care of and plays with her dogs. Bird prepares her own meals and does laundry. She goes shopping for food and household items once a week. She plays on the computer daily and watches television. Tr. 196-202.

Dr. Glas completed a psychological impairment questionnaire in August 2010. He diagnosed bipolar disorder and episodes of psychosis; stated that Bird's prognosis was fair to poor; and listed her primary symptoms as mood swings, insomnia, paranoia, and hostility toward coworkers. Dr. Glas opined that Bird was mildly limited at carrying out simple instructions and moderately limited at carrying out detailed instructions; was markedly limited at maintaining attention and concentration and working with others; was capable of tolerating low work stress; and would be absent from work two to three times a month. Tr. 315-20.

At an August 2010 visit, Dr. Glas noted, based on Bird's self-report, that her "mood has generally been quite stable" and he observed a "fairly normal mood and affect." Tr. 322. Dr. Glas' assessment with respect to psychiatric issues was "bipolar, mixed in partial remission" and he continued Bird's current psychiatric medication. Id.

On November 8, 2011, Dr. Glas prepared another letter "to whom it may concern, " stating Bird's limitations precluded her from maintaining full time employment as of October 2008. Tr. 351. On November 11, 2011, he prepared a letter, reiterating the opinions he offered in the August 2010 psychological impairment questionnaire. Tr. 320, 353.

Bird saw Richard Frederick, Ph.D., a one-time examining psychologist, for an evaluation in April 2010. She told Dr. Frederick she was applying for benefits because she could not make it through the day without crying. She said she had threatened a coworker in the past. She said she had no friends or social interaction, but also told him she was in a relationship. Bird said that in a typical day, she took her dogs out, borrowed her mother's car and looked for work, and watched television. She reported making a suicide attempt at age thirteen by taking an overdose of drugs, and denied any current intent to harm herself. She claimed her main problems were sadness and anger. She said she had never seen a psychologist. Tr. 289-90.

Dr. Frederick observed that Bird was alert and fully oriented; her speech was normal; her thinking was well-organized and coherent; and her mood was sad and dejected. Dr. Frederick noted that Bird did not appear overly anxious and that she engaged in the interview. Dr. Frederick assessed major depressive disorder, but opined that Bird's long-term emotional instability suggested borderline personality disorder, and assigned her a global assessment of functioning (GAF) score of 45. Dr. Frederick opined that Bird could understand, remember, and carry out moderately complex instructions; had minimal capacity to interact effectively in public situations; and had minimal capacity to adapt to changes in simple work situations. Tr. 290-92.

Geoffrey Sutton, Ph.D., a non-examining agency psychologist, reviewed Bird's file in May 2010. He assessed major depressive disorder and opined that Bird met Medical Listing 12.04. Dr. Sutton stated that Bird had marked limitations in her activities of daily living and social functioning, and moderate difficulties at maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace. Tr. 302-4.

At the October 2011 hearing before the ALJ, Bird testified that she had completed high school and a two-year culinary arts program. Tr. 43-44. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and began taking medication for it in 2004. Tr. 54. She said she last worked in October 2008 as a head chef at a resort, but left her job after she snapped at her boss and held a knife to a coworker's throat. Tr. 44. She has low periods, usually lasting three to four days, once or twice per month, when she does not want to care for herself, get up, or talk to anyone. Tr. 51-52. She testified that she had had Medicaid until October 2010, and had no insurance, but Dr. Glas has not been charging her for visits in the last two years. Tr. 49. She has been in her current relationship with her domestic partner for three years. Tr. 52. She spends her time playing with her puppies, doing things around her house, watching television, and being with her partner. Tr. 50. To avoid snapping at people when she shops, she goes to the ...

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