United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
NICHOLAS G. CASTEEL, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
SHIRLEY PADMORE MENS AH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
an action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3)
for judicial review of the final decision of Defendant
Carolyn W. Colvin, the Acting Commissioner of Social
Security, denying the application of Plaintiff Nicholas
Casteel (“Plaintiff”) for Supplemental Security
Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381, et seq.
(the “Act”). The parties consented to the
jurisdiction of the undersigned magistrate judge pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (Doc. 9). Because I find the
decision denying benefits is supported by substantial
evidence, I will affirm the Commissioner's denial of
November 6, 2009, Plaintiff filed an application for SSI
benefits, alleging that he had been unable to work since June
6, 2008, due to dystonia, bipolar disorder, depression, nerve
damage in his legs, and short-term memory loss. (Tr. 149-60,
225). Plaintiff's claim was denied initially. (Tr.
90-94). Plaintiff requested a hearing before an
administrative law judge (ALJ), and the ALJ found that
Plaintiff was not under a disability as defined in the Act.
(Tr. 14-38). On March 2, 2011, the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review. (Tr. 5-10). Plaintiff
appealed to this Court, and on March 29, 2013, this Court
remanded the case back to the Commissioner for further
proceedings, including a re-evaluation of the credibility of
Plaintiff's subjective complaints and a re-evaluation of
the opinion offered by independent medical examiner Ana Marie
Soto, M.D. (Tr. 810-46). On December 4, 2013, following a
second hearing, the ALJ again found that Plaintiff was not
under a disability as defined in the Act. (Tr. 697-712). On
February 25, 2015, the Appeals Council declined to review the
case. (Tr. 682-85). Plaintiff has exhausted all
administrative remedies, and the decision of the ALJ stands
as the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social
time of the hearing before the ALJ held on September 24,
2013, Plaintiff was 26 years old and had a tenth-grade
education. (Tr. 757-58). He could not remember how long it
had been since he last worked. (Tr. 758). Plaintiff testified
that he has not stayed at jobs long because he hears voices,
because it is hard on him to be around a lot of people, and
because he has weakness in his legs. (Tr. 758-59). Plaintiff
lived with his mother and was able to do routine household
chores; his mother helped him take care of his children. (Tr.
761-62). He testified that he was on several medications and
that although they help, he still has problems. (Tr. 759).
medical records dated prior to the alleged onset date show a
history of dizziness, possible movement disorder, auditory
processing disorder, depression, anxiety, cognitive issues,
and drug and alcohol abuse. (Tr. 272-283, 317-19). During the
alleged disability period, Plaintiff sought treatment for
symptoms including anxiety, difficulty focusing, mood swings,
difficulty being around people, delusions, hearing voices,
paranoia, anger outbursts, difficulty sleeping, dizziness,
and alcohol intoxication, and his treatment providers
frequently adjusted his medications to try to address these
symptoms. (Tr. 363, 561-65, 569, 571-72, 589-90, 593, 635,
639, 1064, 1073, 1075, 1136, 1185, 1148-49, 1235-1270,
1293-1298, 1313-14, 1338-39, 1404-1426). At various times,
his treatment providers diagnosed conditions including
dystonia, bipolar affective disorder, major depressive
disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, mood disorder not
otherwise specified, mood disorder not otherwise specified
with psychosis, alcohol abuse, polysubstance dependence,
psychosis-alcoholic, schizophrenia, and schizoaffective
disorder. (Tr. 364, 540, 561-63, 570-72, 590, 593, 1184-85,
1219, 1235-1270, 1293-1298, 1323, 1339, 1346, 1358,
1404-1426). He was hospitalized for his mental symptoms on
several occasions. (Tr. 363, 1185, 1148, 1313, 1339). The
most recent records from Plaintiff's treating
psychiatrist, Dr. Sridebi Gavirneni, are from July and August
2013 and show diagnoses of major depressive order,
generalized anxiety disorder, mood disorder not otherwise
specified, alcohol abuse, and rule out cannabis abuse. (Tr.
record contains several opinions from medical and
psychological experts. On January 12, 2009, medical
consultant Stanley Hutson, Ph.D., reviewed the record and
found Plaintiff moderately limited in the ability to maintain
attention and concentration for extended periods; the ability
to complete a normal workday; the ability to respond
appropriately to changes in the work setting; the ability to
travel in unfamiliar places or use public transportation; and
the ability to set realistic goals or make plans
independently of others. (Tr. 514-15). He found that
Plaintiff had the ability to understand, carry out, and
remember simple instructions; to respond appropriately to
supervisors and co-workers in usual work situations; and to
deal with routine changes in the work environment. (Tr. 516).
February 18, 2010, clinical psychologist Dr. Joseph M. Long
conducted a consultative examination of Plaintiff. (Tr.
538-40). Dr. Long noted that Plaintiff was well groomed, was
alert and oriented; correctly completed a Serial 4 addition
task and made one error on a Serial 7 subtraction task; had
an affect that was flat and constrained with a moderately
anxious quality; made little eye contact; and showed no
evidence of gross impairment of psychological functioning due
to hallucinations, delusional ideation, or extreme emotional
lability. (Tr. 538-39). Dr. Long found that Plaintiff had
bipolar disorder by history, probable anxiety disorder,
alcohol abuse in reported remission, and marijuana abuse.
(Tr. 540). He opined that Plaintiff's ability to
understand and remember instructions was mildly impaired, his
ability to concentrate and persist with tasks was moderately
impaired, and his social and adaptive functioning was
moderately impaired. (Tr. 540).
March 2, 2010, medical consultant Aine Krescheck reviewed the
record and found that Plaintiff had mild restriction of
activities of daily living, moderate difficulties in
maintaining social functioning, and moderate difficulties in
maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace. (Tr. 552).
She found moderate limitations in Plaintiff's ability to
understand, remember, and carry out detailed instructions;
the ability to maintain attention and concentration for
extended periods; the ability to work in coordination with or
proximity to others without being distracted by them; the
ability to complete a normal workday and workweek without
interruptions from psychologically based symptoms and to
perform without an unreasonable number and length of rest
periods; the ability to accept instructions and respond
appropriately to criticism from supervisors; the ability to
get along with coworkers or peers without distracting them or
exhibiting behavioral extremes; and the ability to respond
appropriately to changes in the work setting. (Tr. 541-42).
She opined that Plaintiff “must avoid work involving
intense or extensive interpersonal interaction, handling
complaints or dissatisfied customers, close proximity to
coworkers, close proximity to available controlled
substances, multi-step instructions, multi-tasking
activities, and public contact.” (Tr. 543). She found
Plaintiff capable of one- to two-step repetitive work
activities. (Tr. 554).
around October 1, 2010, psychiatrist Dr. Ana Maria Soto
conducted an examination of Plaintiff, in two sessions. (Tr.
659-666). Dr. Soto described in detail Plaintiff's
medical and social history. (Tr. 660-65). On mental status
examination, Dr. Soto found that Plaintiff was overall
cooperative but showed signs of distraction; had voices that
seemed to be interfering with his answers; showed slow
movement and production of speech; had soft, slow, hesitant,
monotonous speech; had a mood that was despairing, anxious,
depressed, and futile; had an affect that was constricted and
almost flat; had a sense of déjà vu; had
auditory hallucinations with voices talking to each other;
had visual hallucinations; had a thought flow that was at
times fragmented; had thought content that revealed a
persecutory trend; and had severe problems in concentration.
(Tr. 665). Dr. Soto found that Plaintiff's symptoms
“have been developing over time, culminating in
full-blown schizophrenia with an affective component,
primarily depressed.” (Tr. 661). Dr. Soto found
Plaintiff was moderately impaired in activities of daily
living; was severely impaired in social functioning; and was
severely impaired in the ability to complete tasks. (Tr.
663-64). She diagnosed Plaintiff with schizoaffective
disorder, depressive type; obsessive compulsive disorder;
panic disorder associated with agoraphobia; borderline
intellectual function; back pain; history of weakness;
dystonic reaction; and possible Parkinson symptomatology.
(Tr. 666). In an addendum dated January 21, 2011, she
explained the nature of schizophrenia as a disease,
explaining that it can involve periods of partial remission.
4, 2012, medical consultant Dr. Robert Cottone, Ph.D.,
reviewed the medical record and found that Plaintiff could
understand, remember, carry out, and persist at simple tasks;
make simple work-related judgments; relate adequately to
co-workers and supervisors; and adjust adequately to ordinary
changes in work routine or setting. However, he also found
that Plaintiff must avoid work involving intense or extensive
interpersonal interaction; handling complaints or
dissatisfied customers; close proximity to co-workers; and
close proximity to available controlled substances. (Tr.
September 13, 2013, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Anthony Francis,
M.D., testified at the hearing before the ALJ that he had
reviewed Plaintiff's records, that most of
Plaintiff's issues were psychological, and that Plaintiff
could perform at least sedentary work. (Tr. 731-32).
September 13, 2013, clinical psychologist Dr. James Reid
reviewed the record and testified at the hearing before the
ALJ. (Tr. 734-35). He opined that Plaintiff's impairments
equaled Listing 12.09 (substance addiction disorders),
Listing 12.04 (depressive syndrome), and Listing 12.06
(anxiety disorders). (Tr. 743). However, he also opined that
if Plaintiff were clean and sober, Plaintiff's
impairments would not meet or equal any listed impairment.
(Tr. 744). Dr. Reid opined that without substance abuse,
Plaintiff would be limited to simple, routine, repetitive
tasks with only limited interaction with the public,
co-workers, and supervisors; and would have moderate
limitations in the ability to deal with changes in workplace
routine. (Tr. 745-46).
Standard for Determining ...