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Yearling v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

November 9, 2017

Lyle Kurt Yearling Plaintiff,
v.
Carolyn W. Colvin Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          Nathaniel M. Gorton, United States District Judge.

         Lyle Yearling (“Yearling” or “plaintiff”) filed this action appealing the denial of his application for disability benefits against Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“the Commissioner” or “defendant”). He claims he was improperly denied Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) because the presiding Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) failed to consider valid medical evidence and substituted his own lay knowledge for information on the record. On April 3, 2017, plaintiff's attorney filed a motion for an order reversing the decision of the Commissioner. Also pending before the Court is defendant's motion to affirm. For the reasons that follow, the motion to reverse will be denied and the motion to affirm will be allowed.

         I. Background

         A. Employment History and Alleged Disability

         Yearling was born on October 25, 1986. He alleges that he suffers from Osgood-Schlatter disease, severe bipolar disorder, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and attention deficit disorder. He also notes a history of special education in school, physical abuse, violent outbursts, incarceration and treatment for ADHD and the other disorders from which he suffers. Yearling lacks any substantial work experience.

         Yearling was incarcerated from June, 2013 through November, 2014. He contends that during his incarceration he met regularly with a psychiatrist who prescribed for him medicine for symptoms relating to his anti-social personality disorder, anxiety and difficulty sleeping. Following his release, Yearling met his primary care physician, Lakshmi Sivasankar, who prescribed pain medication for symptoms relating to Osgood-Schlatter disease. Dr. Sivasankar also referred him to a behavioral health specialist for further treatment of his psychiatric conditions.

         Yearling saw several doctors for his various infirmities leading up to his application for SSI benefits. In August, 2015, psychologist Daniel R. Morocco evaluated Yearling and administered an IQ test. Yearling's full scale IQ measured 60, and Dr. Morocco diagnosed Yearling with a mild intellectual disability.

         In January, 2016, psychiatrist William J. Meehan evaluated Yearling and concluded he would be unable to complete a normal work day. The same month, Dr. Sivasankar evaluated Yearling and determined that, due to Yearling's physical symptoms, he would be incapable of even low stress jobs and would require many unscheduled breaks.

         Yearling asserts that because of his physical and mental health problems he cannot be gainfully employed and that seeking treatment has not helped.

         B. Procedural Background

         On December 1, 2014, plaintiff filed an application for SSI benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (“the Act”) in which he alleges that he is disabled because of the ailments described above. The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denied his claim in April, 2015. In July, 2015, the SSA reconsidered and denied plaintiff's claim again. Plaintiff subsequently filed a request for a hearing which was held before ALJ John Benson in January, 2016. Plaintiff was represented by counsel. In February, 2016, the ALJ denied plaintiff's claim, finding that plaintiff was not disabled as that term is defined by 42 U.S.C. § 404.1505(a) of the Act.

         Plaintiff filed a timely request for review with the Appeals Council. That request was denied in April, 2016, rendering the ALJ's determination a final decision subject to judicial review. See Da Rosa v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 803 F.2d 24, 25 (1st Cir. 1986).

         Plaintiff filed his complaint with this Court in June, 2016. The Commissioner filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted in September, 2016. That motion was denied in November, 2016. Plaintiff filed a motion to reverse the Commissioner's decision in April, 2017. The Commissioner filed a motion to affirm in June, 2017. Both motions are the subject of this memorandum.

         II. Defendant's ...


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