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Susan Skrzynski v. Michael J. Astrue Commissioner of Social Security

November 3, 2011



This matter comes before the Court on the Plaintiff Susan Skrzynski's Complaint Seeking Review of the Final Decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner) denying the Plaintiff's Claim for Disability Insurance (Doc. # 1) filed on January 28, 2011, in the Middle District of Florida, Ft. Myers Division. A Consent Form (Doc. #15) was signed by the parties indicating their agreement for jurisdiction in this matter to be exercised by the United States Magistrate Judge. The parties' consent was approved by the District Court on May 31, 2011. See Order Doc. #16. The Plaintiff filed her Memorandum of Law in Opposition to the Commissioner's Decision (Doc. #21) on August 9, 2011. The Commissioner filed the Memorandum of Law in Support of the Commissioner's Decision (Doc. #23) on October 5, 2011. Thus, the Motion is now ripe for review.

The Undersigned has reviewed the record, including a transcript of the proceedings before the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), the exhibits filed and administrative record, and the pleadings and memoranda submitted by the parties in this case.


Procedural History

The Plaintiff filed a Title II application for a period of Disability and Disability Insurance Benefits on March 17, 2008. (Tr. 15, 149-56, 157-160). The Plaintiff also protectively filed a Title XVI application for supplemental social security income on March 17, 2008. (Tr. 15). Plaintiff's claims were denied initially on May 21, 2008, and upon reconsideration on July 25, 2008. (Tr. 15). The Plaintiff timely filed a written request for hearing on August 26, 2008. (Tr. 15). On March 25, 2010, a video hearing was held before the Honorable Robert Spurlin, Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). (Tr. 15). The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on April 19, 2010. (Tr. 15-22). The Plaintiff filed a Request for Review of the ALJ's decision and the Appeals Council (AC) denied this request on December 8, 2010. (Tr. 1-4). Therefore, the decision of the Commissioner became final. Having exhausted all administrative remedies, the Plaintiff timely filed a Complaint with this Court. (Doc. #1).

Plaintiff's History

The Plaintiff was born on July 11, 1961, making the Plaintiff 48 years of age on the date of the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 149, Doc. #21, p.3). In both applications, the Plaintiff alleges an onset disability date of December 1, 2002. (Tr. 15). The Plaintiff completed three years of college. (Tr. 182). The Plaintiff has a past relevant work as a deli clerk/deli cutter-slicer at a grocery store. (Tr. 21, 184). The Plaintiff alleges disability due to "[m]isdiagnosis with infection in kidney, tongue cancer, hernias, major affective mental depressive disorder, easily fatigued, low immune system, prone to pneumonia, [and] asthma." (Tr. 175).

Medical and Psychological History

Plaintiff had reported on numerous occasions that her boyfriend was abusive. (Tr. 643, 708, 819, 825). Plaintiff's earliest mental health treatment notes are from Smoky Mountain Center from January 2004, when Plaintiff reported to a psychotherapist that she was depressed and having situational stressors including conflict with her boyfriend and his mother. (Tr. 602-03). In February 2004, Plaintiff's mood was stable and she was showing signs of higher self esteem. (Tr. 599). At subsequent appointments, Plaintiff continued to complain of situational stressors from her boyfriend and family. (Tr. 20, 590-93). In September 2004, the psychotherapist encouraged Plaintiff to pursue her own interests, keep busy, and to go out and make friends. (Tr. 588). In November 2004, Plaintiff reported that she had been receiving the support she needed. (Tr. 585). By March 2005, Plaintiff reported that she was more confident, had made friends in the neighborhood, and had other children over to play with her daughter. (Tr. 583).

From April 2005 to April 2006, there is a gap in the mental health treatment notes. (Tr. 477-82). In August 2006, Frank B. Miller, M.D., Plaintiff's psychiatrist, noted that Plaintiff was improved and doing better. (Tr. 635). In February 2007, Plaintiff began seeing Amanda Burts, MSW, LCSW, at Murphy Counseling Services. Ms. Burts noted Plaintiff only had mild depression and that Plaintiff actually hoped to re-enter college. (Tr. 571). In February 2007, Dr. Miller noted that Plaintiff had a good affect, she was improved, and she had a global assessment of functioning (GAF) score of 85, indicating Plaintiff had no more than everyday problems or concerns. (Tr. 20, 631). Plaintiff also reported that her medications were helping. (Tr. 20, 631).

In subsequent visits, Plaintiff continued to complain about her relationship with her now husband, however, in June 2007, she reported her marriage was going better. (Tr. 567-68). In June 2007, Dr. Miller noted Plaintiff's current status was improved and stable and her current GAF score was 75-80, indicating Plaintiff only had slight limitations in functioning. (Tr. 20, 625). There were periods of greater symptoms such as on June 30, 2006, where the claimant had a GAF of 50, but overall the records show mild to moderate at most symptoms, and no psychotic features or thought disorder, and improvement with medication and counseling. See Exhibits 11F, 18F, and 25F. In September 2007, Plaintiff again complained to Ms. Burts of situational stressors because of her husband's drinking. In January 2008, she reported that she was in serious financial trouble, had no income, and that her husband was likely to become violent again. (Tr. 563-64, 566). In November 2007, Plaintiff began seeing Susan Fredriksen, M.D., a psychiatrist, and reported that she had never been psychiatrically hospitalized and Dr. Fredriksen recommended that Plaintiff try a mood stabilizer. (Tr. 621-22).

In February 2008, Plaintiff continued to complain about her finances and her husband's abusive behavior. (Tr. 560-61). However, in March 2008, Plaintiff reported to Dr. Fredriksen that her family and church were serving as support systems, her appetite and sleeping were all right and Dr. Fredriksen continued her on her current medication. (Tr. 611). In April 2008, Plaintiff discussed with Dr. Fredriksen her intent to move to Florida once her daughter's school was over to live with her parents and to get away from her husband. (Tr. 607). In June 2008, Plaintiff was alert and cooperative and she was not as tearful as she had been in the past and that her medications would be kept the same. (Tr. 723). In June 2008, Plaintiff moved to Florida. (Tr. 40). In October 2008, Plaintiff began treatment at the David Lawrence Center in Florida. (Tr. 879). Plaintiff's medication was working well and when she ran out for a month, she noticed return of anxiety. Id.

In 2008, the Plaintiff was found to have a complex cystic mass in the right ovary. She had surgery on June 9, 2008. (Tr. 19). On November 26, 2008, the Plaintiff was seen for abdominal pain and was found to have "recurrent heartburn." (Tr. 19).

By December 2008 and February 2009, Plaintiff's attitude and behavior were friendly and cooperative and her affect had a full range. (Tr. 876-77). In August 2009, it was noted that Plaintiff's attitude was friendly and that her medication was effectively managing her anxiety. (Tr. 875). In November 2009, it was noted again Plaintiff's ...

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