United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
RICHARD F. FLAMMIA, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON PLAINTIFF RICHARD
FLAMMIA'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS; AND ON
DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR AN ORDER AFFIRMING THE DECISION OF
THE ALJ (DKT. NOS. 10, 13)
L. CABELL, U.S.M.J.
Richard Flammia (“Flammia” or “the
plaintiff”) moves to reverse or remand a final decision
by the Commissioner of Social Security (“the
Commissioner”) denying his application for Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”). The Commissioner
cross-moves to affirm its decision. (Dkt. Nos. 10, 13). As
discussed below, I recommend that the Commissioner's
motion to affirm be granted and that the motion for judgment
on the pleadings seeking to reverse the Commissioner's
decision be denied.
7, 2013, the Plaintiff filed an application for DIB under
Title II of the Social Security Act. (Dkt. No. 7; Social
Security Administration Record of Social Security
Proceedings, at page 226 [hereinafter “(R.
___)”]. The plaintiff suffers from anxiety and
irritable bowel syndrome (“IBS”) and claims that
he has been disabled since December 17, 2012. (R. 225).
October 15, 2013, the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) determined that the plaintiff was not
disabled during the relevant period and therefore was not
entitled to DIB. (R. 158). On January 31, 2014, the SSA
affirmed its determination after reconsideration. (R. 161).
plaintiff requested an administrative hearing and received
one before Administrative Law Judge Paul W. Goodale
(“the ALJ”), on January 22, 2015. (R. 64 - 128).
On April 9, 2015, the ALJ determined in a written decision
that the plaintiff was not disabled, and was therefore
ineligible for DIB. (R. 42-56). On August 11, 2015, the
Appeals Council denied the plaintiff's request for a
review of the ALJ's decision, making it the final
decision of the Commissioner. (R. 1-4).
plaintiff then filed this action on October 9, 2015.
Personal and Employment History
plaintiff was born on April 27, 1964, and was 48 years old at
the time of the alleged onset of his disability in 2012. (R.
224). He is a high school graduate and has completed some
college level coursework. (R. 48). The plaintiff's past
relevant work includes positions as a bank operations
manager, a mailroom clerk, a shipping/receiving clerk, and a
liquor store manager. (R. 54).
The Treating Physicians' Opinions
plaintiff has seen two physicians for treatment for his
conditions, including Dr. Daniel Trutt and Dr. Bennet
Tittler. Both agree that the plaintiff suffers from IBS and
anxiety. (R. 395, 417, 470).
Trutt, the plaintiff's primary care physician, began
seeing him in 2012. Dr. Trutt noted that the plaintiff had
been taking “benzos” medication for his anxiety
since the age of 23. In addition to that medication Dr. Trutt
prescribed the plaintiff valium for his anxiety, and
Flexeril, Tramadol, and Bentyl for his IBS. (R. 389, 390,
394). In December 2012 Dr. Trutt increased the
plaintiff's valium dose to up to six times a day to
address increased stress and anxiety the plaintiff was
experiencing from being laid off from his job. (R. 384).
April 2013 Dr. Trutt continued to prescribe the plaintiff the
increased 6X a day dosage of valium to treat his anxiety, but
made no changes to the plaintiff's medication for IBS.
(R. 382). Even so, though, the plaintiff stated that he felt
completely overwhelmed and unable to work. (R. 381).
2013 the plaintiff began seeing Dr. Tittler for psychological
treatment. In June 2013 he told Dr. Tittler that he had acute
anxiety trending towards agoraphobia because he did not want
to stray too far from a bathroom in light of his IBS. (R.
August 2013 Dr. Trutt noted that the increased valium dosage
was helping the plaintiff, although the plaintiff's
anxiety still prevented him from sustaining employment. (R.
435). Dr. Trutt also noted that the plaintiff got along fine
with other people and could travel independently outside. Dr.
Trutt saw no evidence of memory, concentration, or attention
September 2013 Dr. Tittler diagnosed the plaintiff with
generalized anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder in
the context of chronic IBS. (R. 403). Dr. Tittler also
assessed a Global Assessment of Functioning
(“GAF”) of 52, which was indicative of moderate
psychiatric symptoms and limitations in social, occupational,
or school functioning. Id. Dr. Tittler additionally
concluded that the plaintiff had a number of marked
limitations in several areas. Dr. Tittler determined the
plaintiff's prognosis to be poor and encouraged him to
pursue a disability determination. (R. 413).
October 2013 Dr. Trutt considered the plaintiff's
prognosis for anxiety to be guarded but opined that his
anxiety symptoms would increase in a competitive work
environment. He did not change the plaintiff's valium
dosage. (R. 433).
April 2014 the plaintiff reported to Dr. Trutt that he'd
run out of valium prior to the visit, and had experienced
increased anxiety which had in turn exacerbated his IBS
symptoms. (R. 463). Dr. Trutt continued ...