United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Northern Division
ROBIN S. GOLAY, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner of Operations, Social Security Administration, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
PATRICIA L. COHEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Robin Golay seeks review of the decision of the Deputy
Commissioner of Operations of the Social Security
Administration (SSA) denying her application for Disability
Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income under
Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. Because the Court
finds that remand is required for further consideration of
the treating psychiatrist's opinion, the Court reverses
the denial of Plaintiff's applications and remands the
case for further proceedings.
Background and Procedural History
who was born on April 27, 1968, filed applications for
Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security
Income alleging she was disabled as of September 1, 2012 as a
result of: fatigue, obesity, scoliosis, rheumatoid arthritis,
COPD, sleep apnea, depression, and learning disability. (Tr.
125-26, 243-251, 252-56). The Social Security Administration
(SSA) denied Plaintiff's claims, and she filed a timely
request for a hearing before an administrative law judge
(ALJ). (Tr. 125-35, 136-46, 159).
granted Plaintiff's request for review, and an ALJ
conducted a hearing in October 2014. (Tr. 52-103). At the
hearing, Plaintiff testified that she was forty-six years
old, 4' 8” tall, and 205 lbs. (Tr. 56, 58).
Plaintiff attended special education classes from first
through twelfth grade and obtained a high school diploma.
(Tr. 61). In regard to her mental health, Plaintiff testified
that she had been seeing Dr. Goldman, a psychiatrist, for
about two years, and also saw a counselor once every two
weeks. (Tr. 72-3). Plaintiff began seeing Dr. Goldman because
she was: “Getting mad at everything and everybody,
throwing things, depressed all the time, couldn't stand
to be out in public with everybody, couldn't get along
with anybody.” (Tr. 73).
testified that she experienced crying spells “two or
three times a day, ” during which she generally cried
“[a]bout half an hour.” ((Tr. 74). Plaintiff also
experienced “two or three” panic attacks per day,
when her heart “feels like it's going to come out
of my chest. I get real dizzy” and her breathing
“increases.” (Tr. 75). Plaintiff stated her panic
attacks generally lasted five to ten minutes. (Tr. 75). She
was currently taking lorazepam for anxiety. (Id.).
Plaintiff testified that she rarely left her house and spent
most of her day on the couch. (Tr. 76-77). Plaintiff had
suicidal thoughts and had made one suicide attempt. (Tr. 74).
stated that she had difficulty getting along with people at
her last job at a senior citizen center. (Id.).
Plaintiff explained, “[W]hen I was mad at [my boss],
I'd throw dishes and stuff.” (Id.).
Plaintiff also raised her voice and “use[d] language
[she] shouldn't use.” (Tr. 74). Toward the end of
her job at the senior center, Plaintiff missed “two,
maybe three days a month” because “[m]y arthritis
was flaring up, and my boss was getting to me.” (Tr.
decision dated November 18, 2014, the ALJ applied the
five-step evaluation set forth in 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520, 416.920 and found that Plaintiff had the severe
impairments of obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, mild COPD, and
depression, and the nonsevere impairment of gastritis. (Tr.
reviewing the testimony, medical records and third-party
function reports, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's
“medically determinable impairments could reasonably be
expected to cause the alleged symptoms, ” but her
statements “concerning the intensity, persistence and
limiting effects of these symptoms are not entirely
credible[.]” (Tr. 15). The ALJ determined that
Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to
perform sedentary work with the following nonexertional
limitations: “She can understand, remember, and carry
out simple instructions consistent with unskilled work. She
can tolerate occasional contact with co-workers and
supervisors, but no contact with the general
public.” (Tr. 13-14). Finally, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff was unable to perform any past relevant work but,
considering her “age, education, work experience, and
residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy that claimant can
perform[.]” (Tr. 19).
requested review of the ALJ's decision by the SSA Appeals
Council, which denied review. (Tr. 1-4, 5). Plaintiff has
exhausted all administrative remedies, and the ALJ's
decision stands as the SSA's final decision. Sims v.
Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07 (2000).
Standard of Review
must affirm the ALJ's decision if it is supported by
substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
“Substantial evidence ‘is less than a
preponderance, but enough so that a reasonable mind might
find it adequate to support the conclusion.'”
Cruze v. Chater, 85 F.3d 1320, 1323 (8th Cir. 1996)
(quoting Boerst v. Shalala, 2 F.3d 249, 250 (8th
Cir. 1993)). In determining whether the evidence is
substantial, a court considers evidence that both supports
and detracts from the Commissioner's decision.
Pate-Fires v. Astrue, 564 F.3d 935, 942 (8th Cir.
2009). However, a court “do[es] not reweigh the
evidence presented to the ALJ and [it] defer[s] to the
ALJ's determinations regarding the credibility of
testimony, as long as those determinations are supported by
good reason and substantial evidence.” Renstrom v.
Astrue, 680 F.3d 1057, 1064 (8th Cir. 2012) (quoting
Gonzales v. Barnhart, 465 F.3d 890, 894 (8th Cir.
after reviewing the record, the court finds it is possible to
draw two inconsistent positions from the evidence and one of
those positions represents the ALJ's findings, the court
must affirm the ALJ's decision.” Partee v.
Astrue, 638 F.3d 860, 863 (8th Cir. 2011) (quoting
Goff v. Barnhart, 421 F.3d 785, 789 (8th Cir.
2005)). The Eighth Circuit has repeatedly held that a court
should “defer heavily to the findings and
conclusions” of the Social Security Administration.
Hurd v. Astrue, 621 F.3d 734, 738 (8th Cir. 2010);
Howard v. Massanari, 255 F.3d 577, 581 (8th Cir.
claims the ALJ erred in: (1) failing to assign the opinion of
Plaintiff's treating psychiatrist, Dr. David Goldman,
controlling weight; and (2) assessing an RFC that was not
supported by substantial evidence. (ECF No. 18). Defendant
counters that the ALJ properly: (1) discredited Dr.
Goldman's highly restrictive opinions because they were
inconsistent with his treatment notes and the record as a
whole; and (2) properly formulated Plaintiff's
(ECF No. 23).
Treating physician opinion
argues that the ALJ erred in failing to give controlling
weight to the opinion of Dr. Goldman, Plaintiff's
long-term treating psychiatrist. Plaintiff further contends
that the ALJ failed to provide “good reasons” for
assigning Dr. Goldman's opinion less than controlling
weight, as required by the SSA regulations. In response,
Defendant asserts that the ALJ properly ...