United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
NANNETTE A. BAKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Angela Hamilton's appeal
regarding the denial of disability insurance benefits and
supplemental security income under the Social Security Act.
The Court has jurisdiction over the subject matter of this
action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The parties have
consented to the exercise of authority by the United States
Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). [Doc.
9.] The Court has reviewed the parties' briefs and the
entire administrative record, including the transcript and
medical evidence. Based on the following, the Court will
reverse and remand the Commissioner's decision.
Hamilton presents one issue for review. She asserts that the
ALJ failed to properly evaluate her treating physicians'
medical opinions and the agency psychologist's opinion.
The Commissioner contends that the ALJ's decision is
supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole
and should be affirmed.
Social Security Act defines disability as an “inability
to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of
any medically determinable physical or mental impairment
which can be expected to result in death or has lasted or can
be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than
12 months.” 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i)(1)(A),
standard of review is narrow. Pearsall v. Massanari,
274 F.3d 1211, 1217 (8th Cir. 2001). This Court reviews the
decision of the ALJ to determine whether the decision is
supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Substantial evidence is less than a
preponderance, but enough that a reasonable mind would find
adequate support for the ALJ's decision. Smith v.
Shalala, 31 F.3d 715, 717 (8th Cir. 1994). The Court
determines whether evidence is substantial by considering
evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's decision
as well as evidence that supports it. Cox v.
Barnhart, 471 F.3d 902, 906 (8th Cir. 2006). The Court
may not reverse just because substantial evidence exists that
would support a contrary outcome or because the Court would
have decided the case differently. Id. If, after
reviewing the record as a whole, the Court finds it possible
to draw two inconsistent positions from the evidence and one
of those positions represents the Commissioner's finding,
the Commissioner's decision must be affirmed.
Masterson v. Barnhart, 363 F.3d 731, 736 (8th Cir.
2004). The Court must affirm the Commissioner's decision
so long as it conforms to the law and is supported by
substantial evidence on the record as a whole. Collins ex
rel. Williams v. Barnhart, 335 F.3d 726, 729 (8th Cir.
contends that the ALJ improperly weighed the medical opinions
in this case. There were four medical opinions in the record
authored by Hamilton's treating psychiatrists Dr. Julio
Bernardi and Dr. Michael Wenzinger, state agency psychologist
Dr. Raphael Smith, and consultative examiner Dr. Amy J.
Marty, a psychologist. Hamilton asserts that the ALJ failed
to properly evaluate the opinion evidence provided by Dr.
Bernardi, Dr. Wenzinger, and Dr. Smith.
medical record in this case is small. The first treatment
record concerns Hamilton's hospital admission from
February 25, 2014 to March 3, 2014. (Tr. 309-20.) At the time
of her admission, Hamilton was disheveled and unkempt with
increased psychomotor activity. (Tr. 319.) She was
experiencing auditory hallucinations, as well as persecutory,
somatic, religious, and bizarre delusions. (Tr. 319.) Her
flow of thought was described as disorganized and illogical
with derailment. (Tr. 319.) At discharge, the number of
auditory hallucinations had decreased, but she still reported
grandiose delusions of being married to a prominent religious
figure. (Tr. 311.) Her discharge diagnosis was psychosis and
she was started on Risperidone. (Tr. 312.)
was treated by Dr. Julio Bernardi between July 2014 and June
2015. There are four visits with Dr. Bernardi in the record
between July 2014 and June 2015. (Tr. 253-57, 277-78,
283-84.) Dr. Bernardi diagnosed Hamilton with schizophrenia.
Hamilton's mental status examinations were within normal
limits and her symptoms were noted as stable or in remission.
(Tr. 253-54, 283-84.) During the last visit in the record,
Hamilton reported that she had not had psychotic symptoms in
over a year. (Tr. 277.) Hamilton also noted, however, that
since her mother's death seven months before, she
experienced low mood, poor energy, some anhedonia, social
isolation, frequent crying, and decreased concentration. (Tr.
August 14, 2015, Dr. Andrea Giedinghagen, psychiatrist,
conducted an annual clinic psychiatric intake assessment.
(Tr. 273-76.) During the assessment, Hamilton reported that
she had not had any psychotic symptoms, persecutory or
grandiose delusions, or auditory hallucinations for several
months. (Tr. 274.) She also responded that she was
experiencing bouts of low mood, low energy, crying spells,
and decrease in self-care. (Tr. 274.) Although her mood was
described as anxious, the mental status examination was
within normal limits. (Tr. 275.) Hamilton testified that she
received treatment from Dr. Giedinghagen for a year. (Tr.
Michael Wenzinger began treating Hamilton in July 2016, but
there are no medical records from Dr. Wenzinger, except
Hamilton's annual psychiatric clinic intake assessment on
July 28, 2016. (Tr. 296-300.) At the assessment, Hamilton
reported that she continued to experience episodes of low
mood despite initiation of Zoloft medication, onsets of low
energy, crying spells, decreased levels of self-care,
decreased mood, and anhedonia. (Tr. 297.) She also reported
that the Zoloft decreased the number of days that she
experienced these symptoms. Hamilton's mental status
examination was normal. (Tr. 298-99.) Dr. Wenzinger opined
that there was “notably and confoundingly a history of
depressive symptoms that do not appear to quite meet full