United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON MOTION FOR ORDER REVERSING
DECISION OF COMMISSIONER (DOC. NO. 15) AND MOTION FOR ORDER
AFFIRMING DECISION OF COMMISSIONER (DOC. NO. 23)
Sorokin United States District Judge.
Maureen Theresa Martin (“Martin”) brings this
action against Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration (“The
Commissioner”), asking this Court to either reverse the
final decision of the Commissioner and award benefits or,
alternatively, remand for further proceedings. Doc. No. 15.
The Commissioner moves to affirm her final decision. Doc. No.
23. After careful consideration of the parties’ briefs
and arguments, Martin’s motion is DENIED and the
Commissioner’s motion is ALLOWED.
a fifty-five-year-old woman born October 25, 1960, has never
married, has no children, and lives alone in a studio
apartment. Administrative Record (“R.”) at 38,
39.Although Martin has a driver’s
license, she does not own a car; rather, she walks, takes
public transportation, and relies on family members.
Id. at 40-41, 291. After graduating high school, she
completed one year of secretarial training, but did not
finish the program. Id. at 39, 40, 45, 446.
Following high school, she worked part-time at a library for
five years. Id. at 39, 40, 45.
last worked in August 2009, when she was laid-off as a
temporary employee at Dural Juvenile Group. Id. at
23. For 2.5 years, she assessed the quality of
children’s products pre-shipment and processed returns.
Id. at 45, 56-59. For three to four years prior to
2005, Martin had, sporadically, similar employment with First
Year. Id. She also worked for a book bindery.
Id. at 59.
has actively sought employment by going to the local career
center and library. Id. at 45-46. She testified that
her previous jobs ended due to difficulties working with
co-workers. Id. at 60-61. Her qualifications and
lack of transportation have limited her job search.
has been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, obsessive
compulsive disorder (“OCD”), adjustment disorder
with depressed mood, and anxiety. Id. at 104,
460-68. Martin also hoards, and has done so since at least
1999. Id. at 50, 454. Hoarding has caused issues
with landlords, resulting in evictions in 2003 and 2013.
Id. at 61, 62, 454. Martin received treatment at
South Bay Mental Health Center (“SBMHC”) from
April to November 2007, where clinician Kevin Hershey
recorded Martin’s OCD and episodic hoarding.
Id. at 306, 308.
August 8, 2011, Martin’s primary care physician, Tinah
Canda, M.D., completed a psychiatric disorder questionnaire,
noting “none reported/known.” Id. at
263-64. On August 15, 2011, Martin returned to SBMHC, where
she sought weekly, hour-long, therapy sessions with Randall
Richard (“Richard”), M.A. Id. at 279-92,
302-21, 324-31 372-89. Richard conducted an initial intake
evaluation. Id. at 302-15. He noted that Martin is a
“pack rat” and hoarder, with misdirected anger
that impairs her functioning. Id. He further noted
that she wears a full set of dentures due to years of
neglect. Id. at 309. Martin’s trauma history
noted that she is disheveled, over-talkative, irritable,
anxious, and obsessional; and that she has a short attention
span, loose thought processes, and impaired concentration;
demonstrates inappropriate facial expressions and changeable
moods; and has no social circle of friends. Id. at
310-11. While seeking treatment, Martin filed applications
for Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”)
benefits and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”)
payments with the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) on September 19, 2011. Id. at
173-81, 182-85. Both applications alleged a disability onset
date of September 1, 2009. Id. at 173, 182.
October 12, 2011, Richard prepared a Psychiatric Disorder
Questionnaire. See id. at 290. Martin continued to
experience severe symptoms resulting in deficiencies in work
behavior and difficulties in activities of daily living.
See id. at 290-91. Her symptoms included poor
judgment and inflexibility. Id. Martin was able to
remember work-like tasks and instructions. Id. On
certain days, Martin was not able to get out of bed.
Id. at 291. She was fired from jobs for being overly
talkative. Id. She self-isolated and fought with
neighbors. Id. at 291-92.
request of the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission, Dr.
Edward Powers (“Powers”), Ph.D., conducted a
ninety minute psychodiagnostic interview with Martin on
December 12, 2011. Id. at 295-98. Martin described
her average day as extending from 8:00 AM to 11:00 PM, and as
primarily home-based. Id. at 297. Each day, she
attempts to clear her apartment, and would watch television
as a leisure interest. Id. Martin arrived to the
interview adequately groomed, but appeared to be in emotional
distress, speaking rapidly. Id. Powers noted
episodic anxiety with OCD features, and some depression given
both her current circumstances and continued bereavement over
her father’s death. Id. Attention and
concentration proved unimpaired, and judgment and social
reasoning appeared within normal limits. Id.
December 27, 2011, James Carpenter (“Carpenter”),
Ph.D., the state agency psychological consultant on initial
consideration, diagnosed Martin with individually
“non-severe” affective disorder and
anxiety-related disorder, and determined that the combination
of impairments was severe. Id. at 69-87. Carpenter
reviewed Richard’s Psychiatric Disorder Questionnaire
from October 10, 2011 and Power’s psychodiagnostic
interview from December 12, 2011. Id. at 72. Under
the Paragraph B criteria of the listings of Appendix 1,
Carpenter found the following: moderate restriction of
activities of daily living; moderate difficulties in
maintaining social functioning; moderate difficulties in
maintaining concentration, persistence or pace; and no
episodes of decompensation. Id. at 73. Thereafter,
Martin’s initial request of SSI / SSDI benefits was
denied on December 27, 2011. Id. at 123-25. On March
13, 2012, Robert Lasky, Ph.D., a state agency psychological
consultant on reconsideration, affirmed the assessment of
Carpenter. Id. at 88-109. Request for
reconsideration of SSI / SSDI benefits was denied on April 4,
2012. Id. at 126-28. Subsequently, on April 13,
2012, Martin filed a request for hearing. See id. at
referred Martin to licensed psychologist Cary P. Gearhart
(“Gearhart”), Ed.D., who saw her for a one-hour
evaluation on April 23, 2012. Id. at 335-40.
Gearhart noted that Martin was suggestive of emotional
confusion, poor social development, and a dearth of
internalized psychological structures. Id. at 339.
He noted that Martin thinks about her experiences in a highly
inflexible manner, and evidence suggested difficultly in
modifying her perspective about herself or events in her
life. Id. Gearhart diagnosed Martin with OCD and
May 23, 2012 through February 26, 2013, Martin continued
receiving treatment at SBMHC, now with Kimberly Sawusch
(“Sawusch”), L.C.S.W., and Mallory Centonze
(“Centonze”), M.S. Id. at 394-408,
417-40. While Sawusch’s primary focus included
motivational interviewing (to encourage cleaning and job
hunting) and psychoeducation (concerning social skills,
Asperger’s, and sensory issues), Centonze conducted
psychotherapy with Martin. Id.
October 29, 2012, Martin was assaulted in her apartment.
Id. at 409. She suffered Post-Traumatic Stress
Disorder (“PTSD”) from this incident.
Id. On March 3, 2013, Martin’s family took her
to the Morton Hospital Emergency Department due to concerns
about her not taking care of herself. Id. at 460-68.
Martin was experiencing heightened stress levels due to her
impending eviction and the purging of the majority of her
“things.” Id. at 52. Emergency records
noted the following about Martin: suicidal and homicidal
ideation; flight risk; pressured speech consistent with a
manic episode; cooperative; and extremely dirty. Id.
at 460-68. The emergency physician recommended Martin be
admitted to a psychiatric facility. Id.
from March 4, 2013 through March 8, 2013, Martin was
hospitalized at Lowell Youth Treatment Center, a satellite of
Westwood Lodge Hospital. Id. at 12. Martin agreed to
start medication, and found group therapy sessions helpful.
Id. at 414, 450. She also participated in family
meetings and was provided a lot of family support.
Id. Martin demonstrated rapid, monotone speech,
circumstantial rambling, and odd and poor eye contact.
Id. Her Discharge Diagnosis included PTSD, OCD (as a
hoarder), and Asperger’s. Id. at 415.
March 15 and 22, 2013, Martin met with Kelly Kugel
(“Kugel”), M.A., at North East Health Services
for a Comprehensive Assessment. Id. at 444-55. Kugel
noted that Martin was not eating or sleeping, and that she
had “threatened to hurt her sister.” Id.
at 449. While hospitalized, Martin was prescribed fluvoxamine
for her depression and anxiety. Id. at 450. She was
characterized as having “significant impairment in
social relationships [and] few friends, ” and never
having a relationship with a partner lasting longer than six
weeks. Id. at 451. Kugel also described Martin as
hyper-alert, unable to concentrate, and lacking in judgment
and insights. Id. at 454.
March 20, 2013, Dr. Charu K. Patel (“Patel”),
M.D., a specialist in psychosomatic medicine, saw Martin for
medication management. Id. at 457. Patel diagnosed
Martin as having OCD and PTSD. Id. Patel saw Martin
again on April 10, 2013, and noted that while Martin had been
doing “very well, ” and had “not engaged in
any OCD behaviors, ” she continued having a “hard
time getting rid of things.” Id. at 458. The
move and medication seemed to have benefited Martin.
SSA’s request, Patel executed a Residual Functional
Capacity (“RFC”) form on April 12, 2013.
Id. at 441-43. Patel noted the following about
Martin: no issues understanding, remembering, and carrying
out simple instructions; mild restriction making judgments on
simple work-related decisions; moderate restriction
understanding and remembering complex instructions; marked
restrictions carrying out and making judgments on complex
work-related decisions; moderate impairment interacting
appropriately with supervisors; marked impairments
interacting appropriately with the public and co-workers; and
marked restrictions responding appropriately to unusual work
situations and to changes in a routine work setting.
Id. at 441-42. Patel also noted that Martin’s
Asperger’s “significantly impairs
[Martin’s] social functioning, ” that her OCD has
“previously impaired [her] ability to report to work on
time and consistently, ” and that she had
“previous difficultly going to work and leaving her
home.” Id. at 442. Lastly, Patel noted that
Martin cannot manage benefits in her own best interest.
Id. at 443. Martin continued medication management,
and met again with Patel on May 8, 2013. Id. at 459.
Martin stated that she was sleeping better, felt more
relaxed, and was used to her new apartment. Id.
22, 2013, Martin, represented by non-attorney Michelle
Pequita, appeared and testified before the ALJ. Id.
at 137. She testified that she is unable to return to work
full-time due to her ...