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Glacken v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

May 21, 2019

WILLIAM F. GLACKEN, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          Nathaniel M. Gorton United States District Judge

         William Glacken (“Glacken” or “plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of the denial of his application for disability insurance benefits by Nancy A. Berryhill (“the Commissioner” or “defendant”), the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“the SSA”). Pending before the Court are plaintiff's motion for an order reversing the Commissioner's decision (Docket No. 11) and defendant's motion to affirm that decision (Docket No. 12). For the reasons that follow, plaintiff's motion will be denied and the Commissioner's motion will be allowed.

         I. Background

         A. Employment History and Alleged Disability

         Glacken was born in 1961. He has at least a high school education and served in the armed forces during the 1980s. After military service, Glacken worked in customer service at Home Depot in the plumbing department. He also worked as a truck driver delivering cheese to local grocery stores. In May, 2008, Glacken suffered his first heart attack. That is the alleged onset date for purposes of his application for disability insurance benefits. Glacken attempted to work for a short period during the summer of 2011 as a dump truck driver delivering mulch to local nurseries but was forced to stop because of his alleged physical impairments. He has not attempted to work since that time and has not engaged in any substantial gainful employment since his alleged onset date.

         Medical reports from September, 2012, to November, 2013, establish that Glacken suffers from type II diabetes, hypertension, chest pain from coronary heart disease, high cholesterol and hereditary hemochromatosis (the excessive buildup of iron in the body). He was also diagnosed with degeneration of the cartilage or meniscus of the knees during that time period and was taking pain medication. His hemochromatosis was reported as stable and cardiovascular examinations demonstrated no heart murmurs and normal rate and rhythm.

         In October, 2013, Glacken reported that he had been caring for his 14-month old grandson despite his various medical issues. A physical examination at that time revealed no cardiac issues. He reported experiencing some knee pain but demonstrated normal gait and no focal deficits. He was advised to see a hematologist for his high iron level.

         In November, 2014, Glacken was diagnosed with major depressive disorder. He did not begin treatment for his depression, however, until October, 2015, when he began attending individual therapy sessions and medication management. Mental status examinations performed thereafter were unremarkable and demonstrated that plaintiff was alert and fully oriented and had no cognitive impairments. Glacken requested evaluation for symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”) in March, 2016.

         In February, 2017, plaintiff suffered a second heart attack and a pacemaker was installed in his chest a few weeks later.

         B. Medical Opinions

         In October, 2015, Glacken had a consultative examination with Alice Armstrong, Ph.D (“Dr. Armstrong”). Her physical and mental examinations of plaintiff were unremarkable. She found no impairment of judgment in daily activities or social situations but did note that he reported a trend toward social isolation and somatic focus. She concluded that he had a mild to moderate level of depression that seemed to be secondary to his knee pain and heart concerns. Glacken scored a 28 out of 30 on a Mini Mental Examination and was assessed a Global Assessment of Functioning (“GAF”) score of 55, indicating moderate psychological symptoms and limitations in social or occupational functioning.

         In December, 2015, a state agency consultant reviewed plaintiff's mental health records and determined that his alleged mental disability was not severe prior to his date last insured. She also opined that he had mild limitations in social functioning and maintaining concentration, persistence and pace. In April, 2016, another state agency consultant reviewed plaintiff's mental health records and affirmed the earlier conclusion.

         In March, 2016, another state agency consultant reviewed plaintiff's medical records and determined that he could perform work activity at the light exertional level with the additional exertional, postural and environmental limitations of: 1) occasionally lifting and/or carrying 20 pounds; 2) frequently lifting and/or carrying 10 pounds; 3) standing and/or walking no more than 4 hours in an 8-hour work day; 4) sitting no more than a total of 6 hours in an 8-hour work day; 5) occasionally climbing ramps or stairs; 6) never climbing ladders, ropes or scaffolds; 7) occasionally balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching and crawling; 8) avoiding concentrated exposure to extreme cold, extreme heat, vibration, fumes, odors, dusts, gases and poor ventilation; and 9) avoiding even moderate exposure to hazards, including machinery and heights.

         In April, 2017, plaintiff's treating cardiologist, Dr. Sherif Labib, determined that Glacken was disabled from his second heart attack in February, 2017, and that his disabilities emanating from that incident were permanent.

         C. Application for ...


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