Sonja Stankoski v. Commissioner of Social Securit
OPINION filed: We AFFIRM, decision not for publication. David W. McKeague, Circuit Judge; Bernice Bouie Donald, (Authoring) Circuit Judge and David M. Lawson, U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Michigan, sitting by designation.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR FULL-TEXT PUBLICATION
File Name: 13a0746n.06
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
Aug 12, 2013
DEBORAH S. HUNT, Clerk
ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED
STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR
THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF
Before: McKEAGUE and DONALD, Circuit Judges; LAWSON, District Judge.*
Bernice B. Donald, Circuit Judge. On April 30, 2007, Sonja Stankoski applied for
disability insurance benefits. Her application was denied by the Commissioner of Social Security.
The denial was upheld after a hearing before an administrative law judge. The Commissioner’s
decision was affirmed by the district court. Stankoski timely appeals. For the reasons set forth
herein, we AFFIRM.
In 2007, Sonja Stankoski sought Social Security disability insurance benefits, alleging that
she could not work due to a host of mental and physical impairments. Although she attempted to
The Honorable David M. Lawson, United States District Judge for the Eastern District of
Michigan, sitting by designation.
Stankoski v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec.
do part-time work as an interpreter in 2008 and 2009, she had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since November 3, 2006, the alleged onset date of her disability. Stankoski testified that she
received private disability benefits until May 2009. Stankoski suffers from major depressive
disorder, single episode; osteoarthritis of the spine; ischemic cardiac disease; fibromyalgia; obesity;
1. Mental Impairments
In April 2007, Stankoski was diagnosed with major depressive disorder, severe without
psychotic features. In August 2007, Stankoski attended a psychological consultative mental status
examination where Mark Hammerly, Ph.D., diagnosed her with moderate single episode major
depression. Dr. Hammerly noted that Stankoski was mildly deficient in social relationships and
performed minimal household and community activities. Dr. Hammerly also noted that Stankoski
drove herself to appointments and attempted to seek employment within the last year. Dr. Hammerly
rated Stankoski’s mental abilities as moderately impaired in relating to others; not impaired in her
ability to understand, remember, and follow instructions; not impaired in her ability to maintain
attention, concentration, persistence, and pace to perform simple repetitive tasks; and moderately
impaired in her ability to endure the stress and pressures associated with day-to-day work activity.
Stankoski sought mental health treatment until May 2009 when her husband changed insurance. In
July 2009, Bruce Hennessy, M.D., Stankoski’s treating gastroenterologist, recommended that
Stankoski continue to see a counselor for her ongoing depression. Dr. Hennessy opined that
Stankoski seemed depressed and that Stankoski’s depression was creating her physical symptoms.
Stankoski v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec.
Dr. Hennessy explained to Stankoski that medical therapy was unsuccessful in treating her physical
ailments, but psychotherapy could be beneficial in getting to the root of the problem. Stankoski
received psychotropic medication, but she has not received the recommended psychotherapy.
2. Physical Impairments
A. Back Impairments
In September 2007, an x-ray of Stankoski’s lumbar spine suggested degenerative disc disease
at vertebrae L4-L5 with interspace narrowing, sclerosis, spurring, and vacuum disk formation. In
October 2007, a lumbar magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan showed L4-5 desiccation and bulge
with moderate spinal canal stenosis, along with L3-4 disc desiccation and bulge with mild
biforaminal stenosis and mild central canal stenosis. Stankoski also had an MRI of the cervical
spine, which showed C3-C4 s
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