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Sokolovskaya v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

May 2, 2016



M. Page Kelley, United States Magistrate Judge.


Plaintiff Margarita Aleksandrov Sokolovskaya seeks reversal of the decision of Defendant Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, denying her disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under the Social Security Act. Defendant moves for an order affirming the Acting Commissioner’s decision. With the administrative record (#13) having been filed and the issues fully briefed (##15, 17, 18), the cross motions stand ready for decision.


A. Procedural History.

Sokolovskaya filed for DIB on September 14, 2012 with an alleged disability onset date of April 30, 2012. (TR[3] at 20.) Her claim was denied at the agency level and Plaintiff requested a hearing before an administrative law judge, which was held on June 11, 2014. (TR at 20.) Sokolovskaya appeared at the administrative hearing with her legal representative. (TR at 20.) Both she and a vocational expert testified before ALJ Paul Carter. (TR at 20.)

In his June 24, 2014 decision, ALJ Carter determined that Sokolovskaya was not under a disability as defined by the Social Security Act from September 14, 2012 through June 24, 2014. (TR at 10.) The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff’s request for review (TR at 1-6) which effectively rendered ALJ Carter’s decision to be the final decision of the Acting Commissioner. Sokolovskaya then filed this civil action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

B. Factual History.

1. Personal History.

Sokolovskaya was born on September 8, 1957 in the Ukraine and was fifty-six years of age when ALJ Carter issued his decision. (TR at 27, 43-4.) She was also educated in the Ukraine, graduating from “eight-year school, ” and then attending “college” for four years where she studied radio electronics. (TR at 45.) Sokolovskaya is fluent in Russian and Ukraine.[4] (TR at 45.) She has lived in the United States since 1996. (TR at 44.) Plaintiff is married and has two children. (TR at 44.) Her past relevant work was as a data entry clerk, a job at which she worked for fourteen years. (TR at 27, 47, 61.)

At the administrative hearing, Sokolovskaya testified that she lies down during the day, every day, but she does not sleep. (TR at 50-1.) When she is in “bad condition, ” Plaintiff stays at home and sometimes spends the whole day in bed to hide from everyone. (TR at 51.) If she is in “good condition, ” her husband will take her shopping. (TR at 51.) When in “good condition, ” Plaintiff will go out by herself, taking half-hour walks. (TR at 53-4.) She cooks maybe one day a week, and her husband does the rest. (TR at 51.)

Sokolovskaya claims she can read for only five or ten minutes because she is unable to focus her attention. (TR at 51.) Likewise, her television watching is limited to ten minutes at a time. (TR at 52.) Plaintiff uses a computer to get the weather; she does not have e-mail. (TR at 52.) Sokolovskaya described herself as a “very sensitive” person who feels as though she is being watched, and feels guilty when people look at her. (TR at 54.) She testified that she has difficulty meeting new people, and socializes only with her husband and sons. (TR at 55.) Sokolovskaya spends time with her grandson. (TR at 57-8.) When she is under stress, she gets terrified and begins to cry. (TR at 55.)

Plaintiff is able to understand and remember very short and simple instructions. (TR at 55-6.) Sokolovskaya claims that she has difficulty asking questions, performing activities within a schedule or maintaining regular attendance and being punctual. (TR at 56.)

2. Medical History.

The medical evidence begins with an April 4, 2012 record from Max Baranovsky, M.D., Plaintiff’s then treating psychiatrist. (TR at 338.) Because Dr. Baranovsky’s handwritten treatment notes covering the period from April through June, 2012 are essentially illegible, he provided copies of those notes with statements numbered together with a numbered list to clarify the entries. (TR at 330-38.) Records for five appointments are included with that time frame, one half hour appointment on April 30, 2012 for psychotherapy, and four fifteen minute appointments for pharmacologic management. (TR at 334-38.) These treatment notes and the key provided by Dr. Baranovsky reveal that the doctor recorded Plaintiff’s subjective reports, [5] objectively noted that Plaintiff was consistently oriented times three, and opined that she was disabled due to her persistent depression. (TR at 331-38.) Her medications were Zoloft and Buspar. (TR at 334-38.) In a June 27, 2012 letter, Dr. Baranovsky opined that Sokolovskaya would be unable “to resume work on July 9, 2012 due to continued disability.” (TR at 339.) In an attending physician’s statement to an insurance claims department in August 2012, Dr. Baranovsky opined that Plaintiff was disabled due to major depressive disorder. (TR at 330.)

Dr. Baranovsky’s next progress note is dated January11, 2013 for a ten minute appointment. (TR at 355.) The reason for the appointment was Plaintiff’s continued anxiety. (TR at 355.) In the review of systems, Dr. Baranovsky described Plaintiff as remaining anxious, unsure of herself, expressing self-devaluation and having impaired concentration. (TR at 355.) Her assessment was major depression, single episode NOS, with Dr. Baranovsky opining that Sokolovskaya was disabled and that she should continue psychotherapy and medications. (TR at 355.)

The reason for a fifteen minute appointment on January 28, 2013, was that Plaintiff was tired and frightened. (TR at 354.) A review of her mental status showed that Sokolovskaya was oriented times four; she had poor eye contact and was withdrawn; her behavior was avoidant; her motor was slow; her speech was soft; her affect/mood was depressed, distressed and frustrated; her thought content was complaining; her judgment, insight, attention/concentration and memory were all listed as poor. (TR at 354.) Her relevant history included continued anxiety, fear, lack of concentration, poor memory and self-devaluation. (TR at 354.) Dr. Baranovsky assessed Plaintiff with depression. (TR at 354.)

Sokolovskaya’s next treatment note is dated four months later on April 22, 2013. (TR at 346.) Plaintiff reported continued depression, insomnia, anxiety, the desire to hide from people and not wanting to meet people. (TR at 346.) Sokolovskaya related she could not read for more than fifteen minutes, she did not know how to relate to people and she felt that her memory was declining. (TR at 346.) With respect to her mental status, Dr. Baranovsky noted that Plaintiff was oriented to place, time and herself, her speech was coherent with no aphasia, her mood was depressed, her expression was self-devaluation and she was frightened of the future. (TR at 346.) Sokolovskaya had no hallucinations or delusions or any suicidal ideation. (TR at 346.) The doctor’s ...

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