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Olson v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, St. Joseph Division

March 30, 2015

MARK A. OLSON, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


NANETTE K. LAUGHREY, District Judge.

Before the Court is Mark Olson's appeal of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision denying his application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. [Doc. 5]. For the following reasons, the Commissioner's decision is reversed in part, and the case is remanded for further consideration consistent with this Order.

I. Background

Olson was born in February 1971, has some college education, and has past work experience as a service station night clerk and manager, delivery truck driver, truss builder, probation assistant, call center worker, casino dealer, bus driver, and maintenance worker. Olson alleges a disability onset date of May 1, 2008, from the combined effects of carpal tunnel syndrome post bilateral arm fractures, residual cognitive disorders post skull fracture, affective disorder, Type II diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and obesity. [Doc. 5, p. 1].

A. Medical History

In May 1989, Olson was involved in a car accident. [Tr. 260]. He was ejected from the vehicle and was unconscious. He eventually regained all major functional abilities. Id. Olson sought vocational services in 2006 and underwent a neuropsychological evaluation. Id. at 259. The psychologist concluded that Olson had a full scale IQ in the high average range and demonstrated strengths across all domains, but while his overall memory was intact, he demonstrated specific relative memory weaknesses. [Tr. 262, 265]. His immediate memory capabilities were lower than expected relative to his overall intellectual functioning. [Tr. 263].

In April 2008, Olson sustained a second head injury following a fourteen to eighteen foot fall off his roof. [Tr. 339-42]. He landed on his outstretched arms and sustained bilateral wrist fractures, a skull fracture, bilateral nasal fractures, and fractures to both eye sockets. [Tr. 254]. CT scans showed a subarachnoid hemorrhage, a possible cerebrospinal fluid leak, and a nondisplaced skull base fracture. [Tr. 346, 362]. Olson underwent reconstructive surgery on May 9, 2008, to repair the fractures in his arms, and implants were placed in his wrists. By September 2008, Olson reported that his right wrist was back to pre-injury status, but that he continued to experience numbness in his left hand and fingers which interfered with fine motor skills. [Tr. 281]. The doctor opined that Olson could "begin activity as tolerated of his bilateral upper extremities." Id. Olson still required assistance from his wife at home due to numbness. Id. Olson's wrist implants were removed in December 2008. [Tr. 311].

In January 2012, Olson was involved in another car accident. [Tr. 329]. He complained of a severe headache and a sore left shoulder. A CT scan of his head revealed no hemorrhage, but did reveal residual low attenuation involving the inferior right frontal lobe white matter which had decreased since his last CT scan in May 2008. [Tr. 325-26]. Five months later, in May 2012, Olson complained of increasingly severe memory loss. [Tr. 444]. An MRI revealed scattered white matter changes, evidence of abnormal signal and volume loss in the frontal lobes and scattered other signal abnormalities, suggesting trauma. [Tr. 443-44]. Also in May 2012, at the request of the Missouri Department of Social Services, Dr. Michael Schwartz, Ph.D., performed a psychological evaluation. The results of a Wechsler Memory Scale - IV examination revealed that Olson was functioning in the average to above average range of memory ability. [Tr. 449].

In early October 2012, Olson was diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and mood swings. [Tr. 507]. In mid-October 2012, Olson was admitted to the hospital after attempting to commit suicide by overdosing. [Tr. 646, 676]. He remained in the hospital for three days and was discharged with diagnoses of bipolar and adjustment disorders. Id. Olson began psychiatric treatment in April 2013. Examinations in April and May 2013 revealed a depressed mood, a restricted affect and psychomotor symptoms, fair insight and judgment, anxiety, dysthymia, and distractability. [Tr. 494-97].

On May 13, 2013, Dr. James Applebaum, M.D., stated that Olson scored 28/30 on a mini-mental state examination, losing 1 point for orientation and 1 point for 3-minute recall. [Tr. 519]. Olson had symptoms of frontal lobe dysfunction, but "actually [did] quite well on bedside mental-status testing." [Tr. 519]. Dr. Applebaum referred Olson to Dr. Neal Deutch, Ph.D., for neuropsychological testing. On May 20 and June 13, 2013, Dr. Deutch conducted a neuropsychological assessment, the results of which are discussed in more detail in Part III.B. [Tr. 526-38]. B. Medical and Third-Party Opinions

The record contains medical opinions related to Olson's functional limitations. In May 2012, Dr. Schwartz, after conducting a Wechsler Memory Scale - IV examination, opined that Olson may have "some slight impairment in executive function... but this does not appear to be severe." [Tr. 449]. Dr. Schwartz "did not detect any cognitive, memory, or emotional problems which would prevent [Olson from] working." [Tr. 450].

In June 2013, Dr. Applebaum completed a Medical Source Statement-Mental. [Tr. 523-24]. Dr. Applebaum opined that Olson was markedly or extremely limited in all categories of understanding and memory and sustained concentration and persistence, except he was moderately limited in his ability to make simple work related decisions. [Tr. 523-24]. Olson was, at most, moderately limited in all areas of social interaction and adaptability, except he was markedly limited in his ability to set realistic goals or make plans independently of others. [Tr. 524].

In July 2013, Dr. Deutch completed a Medical Source Statement-Mental. [Tr. 540-41]. Dr. Deutch opined that Olson was mostly moderately limited in all areas of understanding and memory, sustained concentration and persistence, and social interaction. Id. Olson had no limitations in adaptability. [Tr. 541]. However, Olson was markedly limited in his ability to understand and remember detailed instructions, work in coordination with or proximity to others without being distracted by them, complete a normal workday and workweek without interruption from psychologically based symptoms, and perform at a consistent pace without an unreasonable number and length of rest periods. [Tr. 540-41]. Dr. Deutch also submitted a medical statement related to Olson's depression. [Tr. 543-45]. Dr. Deutch opined that Olson had pervasive loss of interest in almost all activities, sleep disturbances, psychomotor agitation or retardation, difficulty concentrating or thinking, and thoughts of suicide. [Tr. 543]. Olson had mild restrictions of activities of daily living (ADLs) and moderate difficulty in maintaining social functioning. Deficiencies of concentration, persistence, and pace as well as repeated episodes of deterioration or decompensation in work or work-like settings were present. Olson was either not significantly impaired or moderately impaired in all work limitation categories, except that he was markedly impaired in his ability to accept instructions and respond appropriately to criticism from supervisors. [Tr. 544-45].

The record also contains non-medical, third-party statements from Olson's wife and his vocational rehabilitation counselor. In July 2008, Olson's vocational rehabilitation counselor, Ms. Deborah Fannon, stated that Olson had cognitive and manipulative impairments. [Tr. 251]. He had diplopia, short term memory difficulties, depressed mood, low frustration tolerance, anger management problems, fatigue, and inappropriate guild. He had functional limitations with manual dexterity in both hands, repetitive movements of the hands, lifting, fingering, and grip strength. Id.

In April 2012, Olson's wife, Mrs. Sarena Olson, completed a Third-Party Adult Function Report. [Tr. 205-12]. Mrs. Olson stated that Olson needed constant reminders to take his medication, attend medical appointments, pay bills, cook meals, and complete chores and other tasks. He was able to supervise his children, who were self-sufficient, care for his dogs with reminders, and grocery shop once a week. Olson struggled in large groups and became embarrassed when he could not recall words. He obsessed over small things, was easily distracted, and followed instructions poorly. He had difficulty understanding, talking, seeing, using his hands, following instructions, completing tasks, getting along with others, memory, and concentration. [Tr. 210]. Mrs. Olson explained that prior to falling off his roof, Olson was the breadwinner of the family and was performing above average in college classes. After the roof accident, his grades dropped and he failed tests. [Tr. 212]. Mrs. Olson analogized Olson's behavior to that of a person suffering from dementia. He had difficulty recalling recent ...

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