Washington v. Social Security, Commissioner of
ORDER denying 19 Motion for Summary Judgment; granting 23 Motion for Summary Judgment; adopting 24 Report and Recommendation. Signed by District Judge Arthur J. Tarnow. (MLan)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
KATHARINE VERNELL WASHINGTON,
Case No. 15-14077
SENIOR U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
ARTHUR J. TARNOW
CAROLYN W. COLVIN,
ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL
U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
PATRICIA T. MORRIS
ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ; OVERRULING
PLAINTIFF’S OBJECTION ; GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT ; AND DENYING PLAINTIFF’S AMENDED MOTION FOR SUMMARY
Plaintiff Katherine Vernell Washington seeks judicial review of the decision
of an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) denying her application for disability
benefits. Plaintiff filed an Amended Motion for Summary Judgment [Dkt. 19] on
April 11, 2016. Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment  on June 30,
On December 21, 2016, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and
Recommendation  recommending that the Court grant Defendant’s motion and
deny Plaintiff’s. Plaintiff filed an Objection to the Report and Recommendation
Plaintiff filed a Motion for Summary Judgment [Dkt. 17] and an Amended Motion for
Summary Judgment . The Magistrate Judge construed the latter motion as abrogating
the former motion, and in doing so, recommended that both of Plaintiff’s motions be
dismissed. The Court will do the same in this Order.
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 on January 4, 2017. Defendant filed a Response to Plaintiff’s Objections 
on January 18, 2017.
For the reasons stated below, the Court ADOPTS the Report and
Recommendation . Plaintiff’s Objection to the Report and Recommendation
 is OVERRULED. Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment  is
Plaintiff’s Amended Motion for Summary Judgment  is
The R&R summarized the record as follows:
A. Introduction and Procedural History
On November 13, 2012, Washington filed an application for DIB,
alleging a disability onset date of May 1, 2010. (Tr. 137-43). The
Commissioner denied her claim. (Tr. 53-61). Washington then requested
a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), which occurred
on June 20, 2014 before ALJ Kathleen Eiler. (Tr. 25-43). At the hearing,
Washington—represented by her attorney, Ms. Ross—testified, alongside
Vocational Expert (“VE”) Cheryl Ross. (Id.). The ALJ’s written decision,
issued July 25, 2014, found Washington not disabled. (Tr. 10-20). On
September 16, 2015, the Appeals Council denied review, (Tr. 1-4), and
Washington filed for judicial review of that final decision on November
20, 2015. (Dkt. 1).
B. ALJ Findings
Following the five-step sequential analysis, the ALJ found
Washington not disabled under the Act. (Tr. 10-20). At Step One, the
ALJ found that Washington had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since her alleged onset date of May 1, 2010. (Tr. 12). At Step
Two, the ALJ concluded that the following impairments qualified as
severe: “affective disorder, anxiety disorder, and personality disorder . . .
.” (Id.). The ALJ also decided, however, that none of these met or
medically equaled a listed impairment at Step Three. (Tr. 12-14).
Thereafter, the ALJ found that Washington had the residual functional
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capacity (“RFC”)2 to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels
with the following additional nonexertional limitations:
[S]he can perform simple, routine, and repetitive tasks with
minimal changes in a routine work setting and no production rate pace
work. She can occasionally interact with supervisors, but is limited to
minimal, superficial interaction with co-workers and the public.
(Tr. 14). At Step Four, the ALJ found that Washington could
perform “her past relevant work as a machine loader.” (Tr. 19).
Proceeding to Step Five, the ALJ alternatively determined that “there are
jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the
claimant can perform.” (Tr. 19).
C. Administrative Record
1. Medical Evidence
The Court has reviewed Washington’s medical record. In lieu of
summarizing [the] medical history here, the Court will make references
and provide citations to the record as necessary in its discussion of the
2. Application Reports and Administrative Hearing
i. Function Report
On December 29, 2012, Washington filled out a Function Report.
(Tr. 188-95). She indicated that she rents a room and lives with family.
(Tr. 188). Describing her condition, she wrote that “I have problem[s]
concentrating and thinking and get very aggressive very easy,” has
“panic attack[s]” and “suicidal ideas” sometimes, and “locks myself up in
the bathroom.” (Id.). In a typical day, Washington said that she gets up,
drinks coffee and watches television, goes shopping if one of her sisters
passes by, and then goes to bed. (Tr. 189). Before her condition ensued,
she “used to work and be around people,” which she said she cannot do
now. (Id.). She could not sleep without her medicine. (Id.). In detailing
issues with personal care, she indicated that while capable of dressing,
bathing, caring for her hair, and using the toilet, she often cannot muster
the motivation to do so. (Id.). Her roommate would help her remember to
take her medication and to groom. (Tr. 190). She did not cook as much as
she used to because “thinking and concentrating take too much time.”
“An individual’s residual functional capacity is her ability to do physical and mental
work activities on a sustained basis despite limitations from her impairments.” ALJ Op.
at 11; see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(2) (The RFC “is the most [the plaintiff] can still
do despite his [or her] limitations,” and is measured using “all the relevant evidence in
[the] case record.”).
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(Id.). Even so, she would spend about “forty minutes three days a week”
doing other chores, such as “wash[ing] dishes and sweep[ing] [the]
Twice a week, Washington would use transportation to travel
around. (Tr. 191). She would not leave alone, however, because
sometimes “I have panic attacks,” and she did not drive “because I don’t
pay attention and thinking is hard sometimes.” (Id.). When she went
shopping, it would take two hours for her to buy clothes, shoes, groceries,
and the like. (Id.). Because she had no income, she did not pay bills,
count change, handle a savings account, or use a checkbook. (Id.).
Washington “love[s] to read books” in her free time, for about two
hours a day. (Tr. 192). However, since the onset of her condition, her
desire to read would “come and go.” (Id.). Though she did not spend
time with others—because “I don’t get along with my family and exfriends they always talk trash to me,” (Tr. 193)—she would regularly go
to church and to the clinic for several hours. (Id.). She did not get along
with authority figures because “they aggravate me.” (Tr. 194). She had
never, however, been fired from a job due to social problems. (Id.).
As to her abilities, Washington checked difficulty with talking,
memory, completing tasks, concentration, understanding, following
instructions, and getting along with others. (Tr. 193). She noted that she
could only walk two blocks before needing to rest for twenty minutes.
(Id.). In addition, she wrote that her capacity to follow written and
spoken instructions varied from being “ok” to requiring extra time or
repetition in order to understand. (Id.). A third party Function Report,
submitted by Washington’s friend Anthony Slater, provides more details
as to her life and condition. (Tr. 172-79). He noted that sometimes “I
have to remind her to take [a] shower and change clo[th]e[s].” (Tr. 173).
He touched on Washington’s lack of income, indicating that “she used to
save money when she used to work” but “now she do[es]n’t.” (Tr. 176).
In other respects, as well, the reports remain entirely consistent.
ii. Washington’s Testimony at the Administrative Hearing
At the hearing before ALJ Kathleen Eiler, Washington indicated
that the last time she worked was February through October of 2013. (Tr.
29). She indicated that the job presented no difficulties because “all I had
to do was put the stuff onto the shelf.” (Id.). The “main thing” keeping
her from working was “the medication they have me on because I hear
voices on everything.” (Tr. 30). Side effects from this medication
included “grogg[iness] and sleep[iness],” as she would usually nap for
“[a]bout five hours. . . . everyday.” (Id.). In general, her medication
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would help control symptoms of “[b]ipolar and anxiety,” but “I have my
good days and my bad days,” and “[s]ome days, it might not do anything
or I might not be able to sleep.” (Tr. 31). She would not hear voices if she
took the medication. (Id.). Typically, she would visit her doctor monthly,
but at the hearing they were “trying something new. We’re trying to see
if I can go three months straight without” a meeting. (Id.).
At the time of the hearing, Washington lived alone, and though
“[s]ometimes I have problems with the cooking, . . . everything else” as
far as household chores “I pretty much do it.” (Tr. 32). Her personal
needs presented more difficulty, and she had “a girlfriend that comes
over and helps me out a lot” with “prepar[ing] my meals” and “mak[ing]
sure I don’t sleep in the shower . . . .” (Id.). Although she did not always
have trouble getting along with others, “[i]t depends because a person
come to me and be very rude or it has happened and then I snapped and
be real nasty and mean to them too.” (Id.). Other than the friend that
comes over, Washington did not have other friends she kept in touch
with. (Id.). While working at Walmart, she had “a couple of incidents”
getting along with others. (Tr. 33). Although her supervisors never wrote
her up, “they’d . . . mess with my hours.” (Id.). Upon further questioning,
Washington discussed how she took college classes on Wednesdays at
Wayne County Community College. (Tr. 35).
Washington also indicated that she “used to read books,” but said
“I can’t concentrate totally . . . .” (Tr. 33). On a typical “bad day,” “I
won’t get out the bed, I won’t do nothing, I won’t take a shower, and I sit
there and cry all day.” (Tr. 34). This happened about seven times a
month. Medication helped with panic attacks, but did not prevent these
bad days. (Id.). Washington then noted the medication she took at the
time: Saphris “everyday,” “Klonopins twice a day,” Seroquel,
“amitriptyline,” and “Tagamet for my stomach . . . .” (Tr. 36). She also
took “Vistaril” for “the panic attacks . . . I take it one every three to six
hours.” (Tr. 37).
After her boyfriend assaulted her, Washington moved into a
women’s shelter that helped her get an apartment. (Tr. 37-38). Her rent
was $18, calculated using her lack of income and receipt of food stamps.
(Tr. 38). She had a “girlfriend that helps me out a lot as far as my bills
go,” as well as a driver’s license—but she did not drive. (Id.). She also
had a thirty-one year old daughter, but does not see her or the rest of her
family because “[w]hen I decided to leave [my boyfriend], I decided to
leave my family out of the situation too. . . .” (Tr. 39).
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iii. The VE’s Testimony at the Administrative Hearing
The ALJ then called upon the services of VE Cheryl Ross to
determine Washington’s ability to perform work. (Tr. 40). The VE first
described Washington’s prior work: her “machine loader” work “would
have been unskilled and medium,” but “light as she described it”; her
“production leader” work would have been “skilled and medium both as
she performed it and per the Dictionary of Occupational Titles.” (Id.).
The “stocker position” at Walmart “would be unskilled and medium.”
In her first hypothetical, the ALJ asked the VE to assume a
hypothetical person with “no exertional limitations” able to “perform
simple, routine, repetitive tasks with minimal changes in a routine work
setting and no production rate pace work,” who can “occasionally
interact with supervisors, but is limited to minimal superficial interaction
with coworkers and the general public.” (Tr. 41). The VE indicated that
such a person could perform Washington’s prior work as a “machine
loader,” as well as other “unskilled, medium positions,” such as a
“machine feeder”—with 15,500 regional job availabilities and 270,000
national job availabilities—a “cleaner”—with 25,600 regional job
availabilities and 280,000 national job availabilities—and a “packager”—
with 7,200 regional job availabilities and 148,000 national job
In her second hypothetical, the ALJ added to the facts of the first
hypothetical that “this person would be expected to be off task at least
15% of each work day, . . .” (Tr. 42). The VE indicated that such a
restriction “would not be compatible with competitive work.” (Id.). This
concluded the ALJ’s examination of the VE.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
The Court reviews objections to a Magistrate Judge’s Report and
Recommendation on a dispositive motion de novo. See 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1)(c).
Judicial review of a decision by a Social Security ALJ is limited to
determining whether the factual findings are supported by substantial evidence and
whether the ALJ employed the proper legal standards. Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 401 (1971). The ALJ’s factual findings “are conclusive if supported by
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substantial evidence.” Maziarz v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs., 837 F.2d 240,
243 (6th Cir. 1987). “Substantial evidence is defined as more than a scintilla of
evidence but less than a preponderance; it is such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Rogers v. Comm’r of Soc.
Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir. 2007). The substantial evidence standard “does
not permit a selective reading of the record,” as the reviewing court’s assessment
of the evidence supporting the ALJ’s findings “must take into account whatever in
the record fairly detracts from its weight.” McLean v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 360 F.
Supp. 2d 864, 869 (E.D. Mich. 2005) (quoting Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383,
388 (6th Cir. 1984)). However, so long as the ALJ’s conclusion is supported by
substantial evidence, a court must “defer to that finding even if there is substantial
evidence in the record that would have supported an opposite conclusion.”
Longworth v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 402 F.3d 591, 595 (6th Cir. 2005); see also
Mullen v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 545 (6th Cir. 1986).
Plaintiff contends that the ALJ failed to consider her documented episodes
of decompensation in the RFC determination, and therefore, the ALJ’s decision
was not supported by substantial evidence. Plaintiff does not dispute the ALJ’s
Step 3 determination that she did not suffer repeated episodes of decompensation,
each of extended duration. Rather, Plaintiff argues that she experienced some
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episodes of decompensation, and the ALJ ignored evidence of such episodes. See
Pl.’s Obj. at 2-3 (“[T]he ALJ’s failure to consider that Plaintiff’s documented
episodes of . . . deterioration or decompensation, and their effect [on] her
functioning in formulating her . . . RFC, establishes that the decision was not
supported by substantial evidence.”).
The Code of Federal Regulations defines episodes of decompensation as
“exacerbations or temporary increases in symptoms or signs accompanied by a loss
of adaptive functioning, as manifested by difficulties in performing activities of
daily living, maintaining social relationships, or maintaining concentration,
persistence or pace.” 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, App’x 1, § 12.00(C)(4).
“Episodes of decompensation may be demonstrated by an exacerbation in
symptoms or signs that would ordinarily require increased treatment or a less
stressful situation (or a combination of the two).” Id. Alternatively, “[e]pisodes of
decompensation may be inferred from medical records showing significant
alteration in medication; or documentation of the need for a more structured
psychological support system (e.g., hospitalizations, placement in a halfway house,
or a high structured and directing household); or other relevant information in the
record about the existence, severity, and duration of the episode.” Id.
A mental impairment may qualify as a listed impairment at Step 3 if it
causes at least two of the following “marked limitations”: difficulty performing the
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activities of daily living; difficulty maintaining social functioning; difficulty in
maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace; or repeated episodes of
decompensation, each of extended duration. The regulations define “repeated
episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration” as three episodes within
one year, or an average of once every four months, each episode lasting for at least
two weeks. 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, App’x 1, § 12.00(C)(4). However, “[i]f
you have experienced more frequent episodes of shorter duration or less frequent
episodes of longer duration, we must use judgment to determine if the duration and
functional effects of the episodes are of equal severity and may be used to
substitute for the listed finding in a determination of equivalence.” Id.
The Court finds it useful to highlight a case in which the Sixth Circuit
illustrated various examples of episodes of decompensation and the type of
evidence that supports a finding of functional limitation. In Lankford v. Sullivan,
Plaintiff Jimmy Lankford suffered from alcoholism, severe chronic anxiety, and
depression. 942 F.2d 301, 307-08 (6th Cir. 1991). In reversing the decision to deny
benefits, the Sixth Circuit cited Plaintiff’s “numerous incidents of . . .
decompensation,” including the fact that for seven years, “Lankford left numerous
jobs because of his drinking.” Id. Lankford also abandoned his military service
with a 10% disability due to anxiety, and he either left, or was fired from, various
jobs due to high blood pressure, dizziness, and hyperventilation due to his nerves.
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Id. at 308. The evidence further indicated that “[Lankford] deteriorates even in
mildly stressful situations.” Id. For instance, during a period of hospitalization at a
VA hospital in Tennessee, Lankford “flew into a rage, left the hospital and went
out into the rain threatening to kill himself,” after learning that a social worker
could not get in touch with his wife. Id. Once, when Lankford “was depressed and
real anxious over [his Social Security] hearing [scheduled for the next day, he] . . .
shot the phone off the wall and pointed the gun at his eye threatening suicide.” Id.
(internal quotations omitted). The record clearly reflected “substantial evidence of
persistent problems involving physical violence against [Lankford’s] wife and
family members . . . [and] demonstrated hostility to neighbors, with one incident
resulting in his being arrested for assault, and another involving a threat to persons
with a rifle.” Id. For these reasons, the court concluded, “the Secretary erred in
failing to find Lankford disabled under step three . . . because his combined
impairments were equivalent to a listed impairment.” Id. at 309.
Contrary to the situation in Lankford, there is substantial evidence here to
support the Commissioner’s decision that Plaintiff is not disabled. To show that the
ALJ considered all of the necessary evidence, the Court will review each of
Plaintiff’s alleged episodes of decompensation.
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A. Episode One: September 9, 2011- February 1, 2012.
Plaintiff first argues that September 9, 2011 marks the beginning of “an
episode of severe worsening of her condition.” (Pl.’s Am. Mot. at 11). The doctor
at the North Central Health Center determined that Plaintiff “exhibit[ed] a serious
chronic condition that will require continuous treatment.” Id. The ALJ discussed
this visit, noting that the doctor observed Plaintiff to be “anxious and depressed,”
but also “fully oriented,” “well groomed,” “cooperative,” behaving appropriately,
thinking logically and speaking normally. (ALJ Op. at 15). The treatment notes
from that date mention nothing about deterioration or decompensation. See Ex. 2F.
Rather, September 9, 2011 was merely the first time Plaintiff sought treatment for
her depression and anxiety, and the doctor’s note was an initial diagnosis of
Plaintiff’s condition. Id. at 1 (“Pt. stated that she has been depressed for awhile and
did not get treatment.”).
Plaintiff went to a follow-up appointment on December 11, 2011. The
treatment notes from that date state:
Patient is very paranoid…She says “I think people are after me”…She
is carrying a knife and she took it out of her coat pocket to show
me…I feel that she needs in patient treatment for her safety and safety
to others and we will transfer her to the crisis clinic for
Plaintiff did not go through with inpatient care.
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Despite the apparent severity of this episode, Plaintiff neither sought nor
underwent hospitalization. See Ex. 2F/7-9; see also Ex. 4F/16 (December 2013:
“she has never been admitted before to a mental health unit.”). By February 2012 –
which Plaintiff claims marks the end of this episode – Plaintiff told her doctors she
was “doing much better.” (ALJ Op. at 16).
Plaintiff inaccurately claims that the ALJ discounted this episode as the
result of noncompliance with her medication regimen. In fact, the ALJ noted that
Plaintiff was “paranoid” and “unstable on her medication” in December 2011. Id.
The ALJ was thorough in her decision and, contrary to Plaintiff’s assertions, she
considered all of the evidence that Plaintiff highlights. Additionally, a state
psychological consultant reviewed Plaintiff’s records from this period and found
no episodes of decompensation. (Ex. 1A) The ALJ correctly gave that assessment
“great weight, as the consultant is familiar with the disability program and its
requirements.” (ALJ Op. at 18).
B. Episode Two: October 31, 2012.
Plaintiff’s second alleged episode of decompensation, which occurred on
October 31, 2012, is based on an assigned Global Assessment of Functioning
(“GAF”)4 score of 40, which would indicate a serious limitation. The ALJ correctly
“The [Global Assessment Functioning] score is a subjective determination that
represents ‘the clinician’s judgment of the individual’s overall level of
functioning.’” Wesley v. Commissioner of Soc. Sec., 2000 WL 191664, at *3 (6th Cir.
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assigned little weight to GAF scores due to their subjectivity “and a nonstandardized measure of symptoms severity that merely captured the claimant’s
level of functioning or symptoms only at the time of the evaluation.” (ALJ Op. at
18); see also Kornecky v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec, 167 Fed. Appx. 496, 2006 WL
305648, at *13-*14 (6th Cir. 2006) (A GAF score “may have little or no bearing on
the subject’s social and occupational functioning . . . . [W]e are not aware of any
statutory, regulatory, or other authority requiring the ALJ to put stock in a [Global
Assessment Functioning] score in the first place.”). Medical notes from the same
date indicate that Plaintiff had “no new complaints,” was in a “stable mood,” was
“not depressed and anxious,” and her “sleep and appetite were good.” (Ex. 2F/24).
This is consistent with the ALJ’s assessment that Plaintiff’s condition “remained
unchanged” through November 2012. (ALJ Op. at 16).
Plaintiff’s argument is illogical—she cites the same records to evidence both
an episode of decompensation and that episode’s resolution. Again, it is clear that
Plaintiff’s claim has no merit and that the ALJ fully considered all of the evidence
in making the RFC determination.
Feb. 11, 2000) (quoting Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 30 (4th
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C. Episode Three: December 12, 2013- January 15, 2014.
On December 12, 2013, Plaintiff went to the ER complaining of chest pain.
Although her test results were normal, she was held for observation. (Ex. 3F/2-5).
According to Plaintiff, this qualifies as an episode of decompensation because the
physician noted in the records that she seemed to be “very anxious.” (Pl.’s Am.
Mot. at 12). At a follow-up psychiatric evaluation on December 16, 2013, Plaintiff
reported that she was hearing voices and had suicidal thoughts. (Ex. 4F/14). She
received inpatient care between December 16 and 20, 2013; at the time of
discharge, Plaintiff denied having suicidal ideations or hallucinations of any kind.
This four-day hospitalization is not long enough to be considered of
“extended duration.” See R&R at 20 (citing Accord Donovan v. Comm’r of Soc.
Sec., No. 12-14671, 2013 WL 6094741, at *11 (E.D. Mich. Nov. 20, 2013)
(“Given that the hospitalization period was for only four days, the record strongly
suggests that the . . . episode of decompensation . . . was not one of extended
duration.”)). The ALJ acknowledged this period of hospitalization, and later, noted
that Plaintiff had “no psychiatric hospitalizations of extended duration.” (ALJ Op.
The Magistrate Judge also pointed out that medical reports suggest that this
episode may have been due to noncompliance with medication. See, e.g., Ex 4F/14
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(December 2013: “she reported that she was not taking her psychotropic
medications . . .”). Likewise, the ALJ considered evidence “that medication
compliance and therapy appropriately managed [Plaintiff’s] mental symptoms
overall.” (ALJ Op. at 15). See Beadle v. Comm’r of SSA, 2016 WL 7335808, at *9
(N.D. Ohio Nov. 3, 2016) (“An ALJ properly considers a claimant’s noncompliance with treatment when assessing the claimant’s limitations and
The ALJ sufficiently examined all of the evidence in assessing the severity
of Plaintiff’s impairments. (ALJ Op. at 16-17). Plaintiff cannot point to any
evidence that the ALJ erroneously omitted from her decision.
D. Episode Four: April 15, 2014- June 20, 2014.
Plaintiff claims that the final period of decompensation lasted from April 15,
2014 through June 20, 2014.5 On April 15, Plaintiff reported that she had been
hearing voices at night since moving out of a shelter and into an apartment. She
also mentioned that her feelings of depression and stress were lifting. (Ex. 9F/2).
The doctor observed that that Plaintiff was “[d]ressed and groomed appropriately,”
and was speaking clearly. Id. She “report[ed] auditory hallucinations” but “[did]
not appear to be responding to internal stimuli” at that time. Id.
The hearing before the ALJ took place on June 20, 2014, although there were no
medical records past May 12, 2014.
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Plaintiff also felt that the Seroquel (the medication that controlled her
hallucinations) was ineffective, and she asked to try a different medication. Id.
When she returned on May 12, 2014, she reported that her auditory hallucinations
had worsened over the last month, and asked to resume Seroquel. Id. Although
there are no treatment notes between Plaintiff’s May 12 appointment and the June
20 hearing, Plaintiff never mentioned at the hearing that she was currently having
hallucinations. In fact, as Plaintiff testified, “[i]f I take the medication, I don’t hear
the voices.” (Hr’g Tr. 31). Additionally, Plaintiff “tried to take [her]self off the
medication during the daytime and it was not good so [she] had to put [her]self
back on and [I’m] not supposed to stop taking it.” Id. at 30. Plaintiff also said that
at that time she had been seeing her doctor once a month, but they were trying to
go three months without a visit going forward. Id.
That Plaintiff reported increased auditory hallucinations following a change
in her environment may suggest that she is prone to decompensation. But the fact
that her doctors wanted to decrease the frequency of her treatment undercuts her
claims of decompensation, as does the fact that she had been living in an apartment
on her own – an unstructured environment – for two and one-half months prior to
the hearing. The ALJ considered this. (ALJ Op. at 18). Furthermore, Plaintiff’s
own hearing testimony is consistent with, and supports, the ALJ’s conclusion that
Plaintiff’s symptoms were well-managed with treatment.
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In sum, the Court believes that the Magistrate Judge was correct in finding
that the ALJ’s RFC assessment was supported by substantial evidence. The ALJ
correctly recognized that the doctors in this case concluded that Plaintiff never
suffered episodes of decompensation. And again, not only did the psychological
consultant find that no episodes of decompensation occurred, there are no
references to decompensation or deterioration in the medical records at all.
Moreover, the ALJ considered evidence of all of Plaintiff’s limitations, and either
factored those limitations in the RFC determination, or explained why those
limitations were not credible.
For the reasons stated above,
IT IS ORDERED that the Report and Recommendation  is ADOPTED
and entered as the findings and conclusions of the Court. Plaintiff’s Objection to
the Report and Recommendation  is OVERRULED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendant’s Motion for Summary
Judgment  is GRANTED.
Plaintiff’s Amended Motion for Summary
Judgment  is DENIED.
Dated: March 6, 2017
s/Arthur J. Tarnow
Arthur J. Tarnow
Senior United States District Judge
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