United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
PATTI B. SARIS, CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
Cheryl Ann Cordeiro brings this action under 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) for judicial review of a final decision denying her
application for Social Security Disability Insurance
(“SSDI”). She suffers from major depressive and
anxiety disorders and seeks SSDI benefits for September 1,
2000 to December 31, 2005. She claims that the Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”) ignored and misconstrued key
evidence, failed to develop the record, and misapplied the
vocational expert's testimony.
following reasons, the Court ALLOWS
Plaintiff's motion to vacate (Docket No. 45) and remands.
The Court DENIES the
Commissioner's motion to affirm (Docket No. 26).
following facts are taken from the administrative record.
Plaintiff is a 59-year-old woman who lives with her husband
of 38 years in Somerset, Massachusetts.
Educational and Work History
has an eleventh-grade education and has not earned a GED. She
volunteered at a women's center from 1994 to 1996.
Between 1995 and 2000, she worked as a babysitter at a
counseling office. She resigned from that position due to
severe depression and panic attacks. She worked as a
caregiver part-time from 2008 to 2014. She was insured for
the purposes of SSDI through December 31, 2005.
13, Plaintiff was admitted to a psychiatric facility after
overdosing on her mother's medications in an attempted
suicide. She has a family history of mental illness but not
suicide attempts or substance abuse. She has consistently
reported being a victim of sexual, physical, and domestic
August 8, 2000, at age 40, Plaintiff sought mental health
treatment at Child and Family Services of Fall River
(“CFS”) following a severe depressive incident
that she called a “nervous breakdown.” Soon
after, Dr. Marshall Wold, a psychiatrist who saw her four
times, diagnosed her with “Major Depressive Disorder,
Recurrent, Severe With Psychotic Features.”
See Am. Psychiatric Ass'n, Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed., text
rev. 2000) code 296.34 (DSM-IV-TR). Dr. Wold prescribed her
Zoloft, which improved but did not eliminate her symptoms.
Plaintiff also saw John McMullen, a licensed independent
clinical social worker at CFS. He noted slight improvements
in her symptoms, some of which were followed by recurrences.
Mr. McMullen also continuously noted that she felt unable to
return to work. Plaintiff was forced to stop treatment at CFS
at the end of 2000 due to a lack of insurance. On February 4,
2002, CFS formally terminated its relationship with
Plaintiff. In that document, CFS noted that her GAF had
improved as a result of treatment.
the time of her nervous breakdown in 2000, Plaintiff applied
for disability benefits (though it is unclear from the record
which state or federal disability program she applied to). A
hearing on her application was scheduled for November 7,
2000, but she was erroneously sent a denial letter and did
not attend. She did not appeal the erroneous denial because
she was debilitated following her breakdown.
her 2000 treatment at CFS, there is a gap in the medical
records regarding Plaintiff's psychiatric condition.
Except for one visit to a doctor for lower back pain after a
motor vehicle accident in 2002, the next medical care
reflected in the records is Plaintiff's August 2007 visit
to Dr. Gloria Mercado, a physician at Healthfirst Family Care
Center. Plaintiff saw Dr. Mercado more than thirty times over
the next ten years for treatment of a variety of physical
issues. Throughout those ten years, Dr. Mercado consistently
referenced Plaintiff's severe depression and anxiety in
her progress notes and prescribed Plaintiff Celexa and Xanax
to treat these symptoms. In 2008, Dr. Mercado wrote a note
excusing Plaintiff from jury duty based on the attention
deficits caused by her anxiety and depression. In March 2017,
Dr. Mercado wrote that Plaintiff “has [had] anxiety and
depression since 2000.”
January 2016, Plaintiff suffered a severe depressive incident
and went to the emergency department of Corrigan Mental
Health Center in Fall River, Massachusetts. Alison Hathaway,
a licensed independent clinical social worker, described
Plaintiff as in “crisis” and referred her to
urgent care. Plaintiff was regularly evaluated at Corrigan
for several months, during which she made slow and
inconsistent progress. In June 2016, Dr. Roger Boshes, a
psychiatrist whom Plaintiff had seen multiple times at
Corrigan, filed out two assessments for her. He diagnosed her
with chronic PTSD related to late onset psychosis,
depression, debilitating anxiety, and agoraphobia. He found
Plaintiff to be disabled and unable to hold a job.
August 2016, Plaintiff first saw Mary Cruz, a licensed
independent clinical social worker at East Side Counseling.
Ms. Cruz made a primary diagnosis of chronic PTSD and a
secondary diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder. Ms. Cruz
saw Plaintiff at least twenty times between August 2016 and
May 2017. During that time, she did not note any consistent
amelioration of Plaintiff's symptoms.
fall of 2000, Dr. Wold, Plaintiff's treating psychiatrist
at CFS, assigned Plaintiff a Global Assessment of Functioning
(“GAF”) score of 41. A GAF score rates a
person's overall level of functioning. See
DSM-IV-TR at 34. A GAF score of 41-50 indicates serious
symptoms or any serious impairment in social or occupational
functioning, such as an inability to have personal
relationships or keep a job. Id.
October 13, 2000, Disability Evaluation Services
(“DES”) at the University of Massachusetts
Medical School conducted a review of Plaintiff's medical
records in connection with her application for disability
benefits. Dr. Paul Kaufman, a board-certified psychiatrist,
and Pat Gaucher, a registered nurse, determined that
Plaintiff suffered from sleep disturbance, decreased energy,
feelings of guilt and worthlessness, difficulty
concentrating, and paranoid thinking. They also found that
she suffered from panic attacks and fatigue. They noted her
marked difficulties in maintaining social functioning and
deficiencies in concentration, persistence, and pace.
they concluded that she was disabled for the purposes of
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) benefits
because she met the criteria for the ...