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Shider v. Commissioner of Social Security

August 25, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sheridan, U.S.D.J.


Plaintiff, Monique L. Shider ("Plaintiff" or "Ms. Shider"), seeks a review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security Administration denying her claim for Supplemental Security Income Disability. The Court has jurisdiction to review this matter under Section 405(g) of the Act and decides the matter without oral argument.

Plaintiff seeks Supplemental Security Income beginning July 9, 2003 due to pain, anxiety and depression. The claim was denied initially on December 29, 2004 and upon reconsideration on February 18, 2005. On May 26, 2006, ALJ Friedman heard the matter and denied Plaintiff's application thereafter. ( R.18-26).

Here, the Plaintiff argues that the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") did not "include a reasoned explanation of administrative findings." (Plaintiff's Brief at p. 10). That is, the ALJ failed to analyze the Plaintiff's Global Assessment of Functioning ("GAF") of 50 as assessed by Union County Psychiatric Center during an assessment on August 16, 2004.*fn1 (R. 152-164). See Cotter v. Harris, 642 F. 2d 700 (3d Cir. 1981). The Cotter case requires the ALJ to discuss the supporting evidence but also requires that the ALJ "also give some indication of the evidence which was rejected." Id. at 705. Plaintiff espouses that discussion of both the supporting and rejecting evidence is necessary because "every vocational expert and most ALJs will testify/find that anyone with a GAF of 50 or less plainly cannot work on a sustained basis."*fn2


Plaintiff is a 30-year old woman who is a high school graduate as well as a graduate of cosmetology school. (R. 238). She has been receiving public assistance and Medicaid since 2003. On July 9, 2003, Plaintiff was shot near her mother's home. The 45 caliber bullet lodged in her liver and was not removed by surgeons. (R. 129-145). Since that time, Plaintiff has experienced pain in her right side when she lifts and bends, and she alleges anxiety and post-traumatic stress syndrome due to the trauma of the experience. In particular, she is always scared and panicked when visiting her mother because it is the neighborhood where she was shot. Despite these physical and mental injuries, there has been no significant treatment since then. According to Plaintiff, she takes care of her personal needs (e.g., drives a car, cooks and launders her clothes). (R. 108). Her other daily activities and social relationship functioning are significantly restricted by her combined ailments.

(R. 122). She watches television and DVDs and visits the library, but walking, standing and climbing stairs are impaired (R. 100). More particularly, she walks slower and feels pain when climbing stairs, but has no problems paying attention, finishing tasks or following written instructions, and relating adequately with co-workers. (R. 110-112).

Before and after her injury, Plaintiff stocked shelves, sold merchandise and operated a cash register. Her most recent job was at a Home Depot in 2004 (after the shooting). Her job required that she stand for approximately four hours and walk about the same length of time, lifting a maximum of 10 pounds. (R. 95-96). Plaintiff testified that she quit that job because the work required excessive lifting and bending which caused her pain.

Thereafter, Plaintiff was seen at Union County Psychiatric Center for a Biopsychosocial Assessment on August 16, 2004. (R. 152-164). At the time of that assessment, Plaintiff was cooperative. Her attire was appropriate. Her gait and motor activity were normal, and stream of thought was normal. Her mood was anxious and upset (fearful and angry) due to being shot and her father's indifference to her. Most notably, her thought perceptions were normal, and her judgment was intact. She was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and parent/child relationship problems. The assessment noted problems relating in a social environment due to the anxiety related to her gunshot wound. Occasional problems were noted as Plaintiff indicated that she could not work due to pain, as well as economic woes due to limited welfare payments. Her GAF was scored at 50.

On November 23, 2004, Plaintiff was examined by Jan S. Cavanaugh, Ph.D. of Industrial Medicine Associates for a consultative psychiatric examination. (R. 169-173). At the time of the evaluation, Plaintiff was expecting a child in April of 2005. She drove twenty miles to the examination. She advised the doctor that she could not work due to pain in her right side resulting from the 2003 gunshot wound, and she had difficulty falling asleep due to pain. Moreover, her appetite decreased resulting in a 20-pound weight loss. On examination, Plaintiff was responsive to questioning and her social skills were adequate. (R. 171). She dressed appropriately and her grooming was good. Her gait, posture and motor behavior were normal and eye contact was appropriate. Her speech was intelligible and fluent, and her thought processes were coherent. Her mood was calm and she appeared relaxed and comfortable. Her attention and concentration were intact. She could count, add, and subtract, but she missed other simple calculations and could not multiply by three. Her memory was intact. Her intellectual functioning was estimated to be below average and she had limited general knowledge. (R. 171). Ms. Shider reiterated that on a daily basis she dresses, bathes and grooms herself and that she cooks, cleans, launders, shops and takes public transportation with some limitations due to pain. (R. 171). Ms. Shider spends her days doing chores, reading, watching television and listening to the radio. Dr. Cavanaugh found Plaintiff did not have psychiatric problems of such severity that would significantly interfere with her ability to function on a daily basis. (R. 172). Accordingly, he diagnosed an adjustment disorder and recommended that she continue with psychological and psychiatric treatment and undertake vocational training and job coaching. Her prognosis was fair. (R. 173).

On December 9, 2004, the Physical Residual Functional Capacity Assessment ("RFC") found Plaintiff had some limitations. That is, Ms. Shider could occasionally lift 50 pounds; frequently lift 25 pounds; stand and/or walk (with normal breaks for a total of about six hours in an eight-hour workday); sit (with normal breaks for a total of about six hours in an eight-hour workday); and she was found to be unlimited in her ability to push and/or pull (including operation of hand and/or foot controls). There were no postural, manipulative, visual, communicative or environmental limitations noted. (R. 174-179). The RFC assessment further noted that Plaintiff was moderately limited in her ability to understand and remember detailed instructions. (R. 180-181). The psychiatric review technique similarly confirmed "Affective Disorder" (12.04). More specifically, the disorder caused mild limitations in her activities of daily living, including concentration, persistence and maintaining social functioning.

A March 16, 2005 psychiatric evaluation at Union County Psychiatric Center for a Biopsychosocial Assessment indicated that Plaintiff was alert and interactive, that her demeanor was tearful, and her mood was depressed and anxious. Her thought content at the time of the evaluation noted some homicidal ideation and that her judgment was impaired as evidenced by this aggressive ideation. (R. 201). On September 10, 2006, a psychiatric evaluation noted major depression and psychosis and that she had experienced auditory hallucinations and grandiose delusions. (R. 166). Plaintiff was prescribed Rispedal once a day and Lexapro (20 mg) for depression and post traumatic stress syndrome. (R. 167-168).*fn3 Hearing Testimony On May 26, 2006 at the hearing before ALJ Friedman, Ms. Shider testified that she is unable to work because of "severe pain" in her right side that radiates down into her leg from the bullet lodged in her liver (R. 225). When questioned how far she could walk, Plaintiff testified "about a mile or so," before she would have to slow down. (R. 242). She stated that she could stand for about 10 minutes at a time before pain would occur, and similarly stated that she could not perform a "light" job where sitting down was required because of sharp pains from her waist down to her leg when sitting for long periods of time. (R. 266, 243).

As previously noted, Plaintiff confirmed she had not been treated by a doctor since 2004.

According to Plaintiff, she was pregnant at the time of the shooting and she miscarried at the time (according to Judge Friedman, the pregnancy is not mentioned in the hospital report). Contrary to the above, Ms. Shider became pregnant and miscarried. After the shooting, Ms. Shider worked part-time at Home Depot doing displays and stocking merchandise. She quit because of the pain in her back and side when turning and bending. (R. 236). Her prescriptions at the time of the hearing were Lexapro and Klonopin at night for depression. At some point, Plaintiff smoked marijuana for her pain because "Aleve did not relieve the pain". (R. 235). At the time of the hearing, Ms. Shider lived in a rooming house and ...

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