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Williams v. Commissioner of Social Security

February 3, 2010

JASON WILLIAMS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joel A. Pisano United States District Judge

Not for publication

OPINION

PISANO, District Judge

Before the Court is Plaintiff Jason Williams's appeal from the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration's ("Commissioner") final decision denying his request for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). The Court has jurisdiction to review this matter under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and decides this matter without oral argument, see Fed R. Civ. P. 78. The record provides substantial evidence supporting the ALJ's decision that Plaintiff retains the residual functional capacity to perform unskilled light exertion work; however, the Commissioner has not established that there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the Plaintiff can perform. Accordingly, the Court affirms in part and remands this matter to the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") for further findings consistent with this opinion.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was born on March 19, 1974, and at the time of his hearing before the ALJ was 32 years old. Administrative Record ("R.") at 20; 462. He is a college graduate and is approximately one academic year away from completing a master's degree. Id. at 21; 461. His past relevant work history is as a financial consultant and clerical administrator. Id. at 453; 459. According to Plaintiff, his last "important job" ended in 2002. Id. at 453. Plaintiff alleges disability beginning on June 12, 2002. Id. at 14.

II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff filed an application for DIB and SSI on November 25, 2003, alleging an inability to work since June 12, 2002 due to a severe and disabling medically determinable impairment.*fn1

Id. at 14. The Social Security Administration ("SSA") denied Plaintiff's claim initially and upon reconsideration. R. at 14. On January 23, 2007, a hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Daniel L. Rubine in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. Id. at 448. The ALJ issued a written decision denying Plaintiff's claim on March 22, 2007. Id. at 14-22.

III.FACTUAL HISTORY

A. Plaintiff's Previous Employment

Plaintiff's past relevant work experience includes various clerical, administrative, and consulting positions. Plaintiff testified that his last "important job" was with Price Waterhouse as a financial consultant. Id. at 452-453. According to Plaintiff, he was employed by Price Waterhouse as a financial consultant for approximately three years ending in 2002, and his job duties included performing accounting and internal corporate auditing for Viacom, MTV, and VH1. Id. at 453; 458. Prior to 2002, Plaintiff also worked in various temporary positions for Selective Staffing, Adeco, and Palmerans Outsourcing doing clerical administrative work. Id. at 458-59. He also worked for Payne Webber selling packaged funds to high net worth clients. R. at 460. While in college, Plaintiff worked for UPS entering tariff classifications for imports into the United States. Id. at 459. He also performed clerical work for the Society of Naval Architects. Id. at 460. Most recently, in the summer of 2006, Plaintiff was employed by the YMCA checking people in at the front desk. Id. at 453; 456. Plaintiff testified that he was asked to leave his position at the YMCA because he was no longer needed. Id. at 455.

B. Plaintiff's Daily Activities

At the time of the hearing, Plaintiff testified that he lives with his aunt. Id. at 468. Plaintiff's aunt does the housework, as well as the cooking and the laundry. R. at 468-69. Plaintiff attempts to help with the housework by straightening up a little bit but claims that his weakness limits how much he can accomplish. Id. at 470. Plaintiff testified that he sleeps approximately nineteen hours a day. Id. During his waking hours, Plaintiff tries to do a little bit of exercise, rests, reads the newspaper and magazines, and reads about his conditions. Id. at 470; 472-73. Plaintiff claims that he suffers from nightmares and night sweats that prevent him from sleeping through the night. Id. at 471. Plaintiff testified that he has not driven for three or four years. Id. at 466. He does not go to the store because he does not like to be around people. R. at 469. His aunt drives him to the doctor. Id. at 469-70. Plaintiff does not take the bus because he is afraid of germs. Id. Plaintiff's cousin takes him for a drive once or twice a week to Wawa. Id.at 470. Plaintiff also attends church two or three times a week. Id. at 302.

C. Plaintiff's Medical History

Plaintiff suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder ("PTSD") and human immunodeficiency virus ("HIV"). Id. at 16. Plaintiff has suffered from PTSD since at least 2002. R. at 14. He developed the condition as a result of witnessing his father murder his mother in 1981. Id. at 299; 464. In 2003, Plaintiff's father was charged with the murder and brought to trial. Id. at 465. The stress caused by his father's trial exacerbated Plaintiff's PTSD. Id.

In 2002, Plaintiff was shot through the chest and right arm in an apparent drive-by shooting. Id. at 465-69. Plaintiff believes he was shot by his father's associates to keep him from testifying at the murder trial. Id. Plaintiff received treatment at the Capital Health System Emergency Department. R. at 319-34; 200-07. There is no evidence that the gunshot wound has caused Plaintiff permanent physical injury; however, Plaintiff asserts that it has contributed to his PTSD. Id. at 208. On July 9, 2002, Plaintiff was treated at the Capital Health Systems Emergency Department for depression and anxiety with sleep and appetite disturbance stemming from the shooting and from witnessing his mother's murder. Id. at 336. Plaintiff was prescribed Zyprexa, Zoloft, and Elavil, and discharged with instructions to follow up for medication monitoring. Id. at 341; 343.

Plaintiff received counseling at the Family Growth Program ("FGP") intermittently from September 2002 until March 2004. Id. at 208-217. He originally sought counseling to help with the emotional turmoil caused by his mother's murder trial. Id. at 208. After the trial, Plaintiff left counseling and attempted to return to the workforce. R. at 208. He returned to counseling at FGP in 2004 because he felt "stuck" in his life. Id. Plaintiff had not been able to successfully return to the workforce because he had difficulty concentrating. Id. At the time he returned to counseling at FGP, he had begun to stay home as much as possible in order to avoid people. Id. He had developed a distrust of everyone, including his relatives. Id. The FGP counselor set treatment goals for Plaintiff; however, Plaintiff discontinued therapy before his treatment goals were attained. Id. at 209.

On April 24, 2004, Plaintiff was evaluated by Vinobha Gooriah, M.D. for the New Jersey Department of Labor, Division of Disability Determinations Services as part of his application for DIB and SSI. R. at 218. At the time Plaintiff was assessed by Dr. Gooriah, he had unilaterally discontinued all treatment for his PTSD. Id. at 219. Dr Gooriah found Plaintiff to be oriented times three. Id. Plaintiff's speech was clear, coherent, elaborate, and logical. Id. Plaintiff also reported being able to see spiritual things and heal the sick. Id. at 220. Dr. Gooriah found that Plaintiff required an in depth psychological evaluation because he reported having hallucinations but was vague when asked to describe them, and because he appeared to suffer from flashbacks of his mother's murder. Id. Dr. Gooriah concluded that Plaintiff needed to be in counseling. R. at 220. Dr. Gooriah diagnosed Plaintiff with Axis I: rule out PTSD and alcohol/cannabis abuse; Axis III: status post bullet injury to the right arm and chest; Axis IV: severity of stressors: severe; Axis V: GAF is 51. Id.

On May 14, 2004, Jane Curran, Ph.D. conducted a psychological assessment and mental residual functional capacity assessment of Plaintiff. Id. at 222-39. Dr. Curran found that Plaintiff was not receiving treatment for his condition and had no psychological treatment plan. Id. at 224. She found Plaintiff to be oriented with clear, coherent, and logical speech. Id. at 224. Dr. Curran noted that Plaintiff reported having visual hallucinations, and reported being socially withdrawn. Id. Plaintiff also reported that he sometimes drives. R. at 224. Dr. Curran found that, while depressed and anxious, Plaintiff was able to understand, remember, and execute simple instructions. Id. Dr. Curran also found Plaintiff able to make simple decisions. Id. at 222. Dr. Curran noted that Plaintiff was able to respond appropriately to supervisors and co-workers and deal with routine change. Id. at 224. Dr. Curran found that Plaintiff's restriction on daily living, difficulties in maintaining social functioning, and difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence or pace was moderate. Id. at 236. In summary, Dr. Curran found that Plaintiff could "meet the basic mental demands of unskilled work." Id. at 224.

Plaintiff sought emergency treatment for his PTSD symptoms twice in January 2005. R. at 240-77; 307-18. On January 6, 2005, Plaintiff was treated for personality disorder, suicidal ideation, and microcytic anemia at the Capital Health System Emergency Department. Id. at 307-18. At the time of his initial evaluation, Plaintiff reported that he had smoked marijuana and wanted to hurt himself. Id. at 308. Plaintiff was discharged with instructions to follow up with outpatient treatment. Id. at 309. On January 10, 2005, Plaintiff returned to the Capital Health System Emergency Department complaining of anxiety, nervousness, anger, and depression. Id. at 241. Plaintiff was prescribed Lexapro, Seroquel, and Vistaril, instructed to follow up for medication monitoring in two weeks, and referred to Catholic Charities for outpatient treatment. Id. at 243; 269. Plaintiff received counseling at Catholic Charities from January 2005 through March 2005, at which time he unilaterally discontinued treatment. R. at 278-282.

On March 30, 2005, Plaintiff was evaluated by Hugh D. Moore, Ph.D. Id. at 283. Dr. Moore found Plaintiff defensive and irritable. Id. at 284. Plaintiff was clean and well groomed, his speech was fluent, and his thought process was coherent. Id. at 285. He showed no signs of delusions, hallucinations, or disordered thinking. Id. at 285. Dr. Moore found Plaintiff to be oriented and his concentration was intact. Id. at 285. However, Dr. Moore found that Plaintiff had poor insight and judgment. R. at 285. At the time of the evaluation, Dr. Moore concluded that Plaintiff was able to understand and follow simple instructions, capable of performing simple and complex tasks, maintaining a schedule, learning new tasks, and making appropriate decisions. Id. at 285. Dr. Moore also concluded that Plaintiff was not able to relate appropriately to other people and did not deal well with stress. Id. at 285. Dr. Moore diagnosed Plaintiff with Axis I: schizophrenic disorder, paranoid type, PTSD, cannabis abuse, rule out alcohol abuse; Axis II: personality disorder NOS; and Axis III: anemia. Id. at 286. Dr. Moore concluded that Plaintiff's prognosis was guarded but his symptoms could be relieved with continued intervention and support. Id. at 285.

Plaintiff received a clinical evaluation at Penndel Mental Health Center in April 2006; he was diagnosed with PTSD, major depressive disorder and cannabis abuse. Id. at 356. He attended three therapy sessions before unilaterally discontinuing counseling. R. at 356. In June 2006, he received a psychiatric evaluation conducted by Fredric M. Mintzer, M.D. Id. at 356-62. At the time of the evaluation, Plaintiff was taking Zyprexa and Zoloft for his psychological problems. Id. at 356. Plaintiff reported that he had not worked since 2005 and that he used marijuana daily. Id. at 357. He described his mood as anxious but appeared to be neat and well groomed, and acted appropriately. Id. at 357. Further, his thinking was coherent and goal directed. Id. Dr. Mintzer diagnosed Plaintiff with Axis I: PTSD and cannabis ...


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