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Jakubiak v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

October 10, 2018

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.



         This is an action for judicial review of a final decision by the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”) denying the application of Sylvester Jakubiak (“Plaintiff”) for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) benefits because he was not disabled as that term is defined by the regulations during the relevant time period. Plaintiff has filed a Motion for Order Reversing the Decision of the Commissioner (Docket No. 15), and the Commissioner has filed a cross Motion to Affirm the Commissioner's Decision. (Docket No. 15). For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion (Docket No. 15) is denied and Defendant's motion (Docket No. 17) is granted.


         1. Procedural History

         Plaintiff filed for disability benefits under Title XVI on April 30, 2013, alleging disability as of July 15, 2010. (AR 201-209). His claim was denied at the initial and reconsideration levels. (AR 87-109). Subsequently, Plaintiff requested and received an administrative hearing. (AR 122). After the hearing, Administrative Law Judge Michael P. Breton (“ALJ”) concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled (AR 15-27).

         The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's Request for Review of this decision, and the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner. (AR 1-6). Plaintiff has exhausted his administrative remedies, and this case is therefore now ripe for review under 42 U.S.C. 405(g).

         2. Medical History

         In February 2010, Plaintiff began treatment at Arbour counseling Services. Clinicians noted that Plaintiff suffered from anxiety, depression, racing thoughts, aggravation, anger, feelings of hopelessness, low motivation and poor sleep. He was diagnosed with anxiety disorder. (AR 297-300).

         On May 3, 2013, Plaintiff underwent a psychiatric examination of Arbour. He complained that he was “under a lot of stress” because he was attempting to regain custody of his son and care for his mother. (AR 303). He was again diagnosed with anxiety disorder and prescribed Neurontin. (AR 303-306). On June 7, 2013, Plaintiff attended a medication management appointment at Arbour and indicated that his medications were not working. He was therefore prescribed Prozac. (AR 308). On September 6, 2013, Plaintiff had another medication management appointment and complained that he still experienced anxiety and depression. He was prescribed Neurontin and Effexor. (AR 377-78).

         On October 11, 2013, Plaintiff saw Dr. Milton Taylor for a consultative psychological examination. Plaintiff's chief complaints were “mental problems” and that he had been told that he had an IQ of 62. Dr. Taylor noted Plaintiff's history of anxiety and depression and his difficulty maintaining employment due to his inability to read or write. For instance, Plaintiff attended a welding program after finishing high school but could not get a certificate because he was unable to read blueprints. (AR 363-67).

         Regarding Plaintiff's mental health, Dr. Taylor noted that Plaintiff described himself as depressed, “although this was not particularly evident” and he “seemed quite mellow.” (AR 366). Plaintiff reported that “he can become snappy and impatient with people . . . [and] can be moody, grouchy, and irritable.” (AR 366). Cognitively, Plaintiff could follow simple three-step commands, perform serial 7 subtraction, spell the word “world” forward and backward, and immediately recall three common objects and recall two of the three after a time interval. (AR 366). According to Dr. Taylor, Plaintiff's cognitive and mental health “would limit his range of work” but he “has no interest in working or developing a career.” (AR 367).

         On October 16, 2013, state agency psychologist Dr. Ginette Langer reviewed Plaintiff's records and issued a report regarding his mental functioning. (AR 91-95). In Dr. Langer's opinion, Plaintiff's impairments resulted in mild limitations in his ability to perform daily activities and moderate restrictions in social functioning, concentration, persistence, and pace. (AR 92). Regarding his Residual Functional Capacity, Dr. Langer opined that Plaintiff could: understand and remember simple instruction; concentrate, sustain attention, and keep pace on simple tasks for two hours at a time; adapt to routine changes in the work setting; and handle occasional social interactions with the general public. (AR 94-95). Dr. Langer also noted that Plaintiff “will be able to handle supervisory oversight only on simple tasks [and] will have occasional episodes of irritability.” (AR 95).

         On November 7, 2013, Plaintiff attended a final psychiatric review at Arbour Counseling. (AR 433-35). He complained that he was “depressed sometimes.” (AR 433). During the exam, he appeared disheveled and occasionally lost focus but otherwise his eye contact, psychomotor status and affect were normal, his mood was “relaxed, ” and his energy level was “good.” (AR 434). Plaintiff was again diagnosed with anxiety and depression and prescribed Neurontin. (AR 434-35). In addition, Plaintiff was assessed a Global Assessment of Functioning (“GAF”) score of 60. (AR 435).[1] On March 20, 2014, another state agency psychologist, Dr. Katheryn Collins-Wooley, reviewed Plaintiff's medical records and agreed with Dr. Langer's earlier assessment. (AR 103-107).

         On January 4, 2015, Plaintiff began treatment at the Multicultural Wellness Center. He was noted to be suffering from anxiety, depression, mood swings, racing thoughts, and weight loss. (AR 381-89). He was diagnosed with mood disorder and provided a treatment plan. (AR 390-94). On February 4, 2015, Plaintiff was seen at the Multicultural Wellness Center for an initial intake assessment. He complained of ongoing anxiety and depression. (AR 381). He was again diagnosed with mood disorder and assigned a GAF score of 63. (AR 390-91).[2]

         On February 27, 2015, Plaintiff saw Dr. Celest N. Derecho at the Multicultural Wellness Center. Plaintiff displayed poor recall and was unable to calculate serial 7s. Intelligence testing indicated that he had an IQ of 71, reading at the 5th grade level, reading comprehension at the 3rdgrade level, and math skills at the 4th grade level. Dr. Derecho diagnosed Plaintiff with substance abuse in remission, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, personality disorder, and borderline intellectual functioning. In her view, Plaintiff “would be capable of learning simple instructions in a routine job but given the range of difficulties he would have the best ...

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