United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW
TANYA WALTON PRATT, District Judge.
Plaintiff Andre Starks ("Mr. Starks") requests judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("the Commissioner") denying his application for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act ("the Act"), and for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Act. For the reasons set forth below, the Court AFFIRMS the Commissioner's decision.
A. Procedural History
On October 5, 2010, Mr. Starks filed an application for DIB, and on October 12, 2010, he filed an application for SSI. He alleges a disability onset date of April 1, 2005. Mr. Starks' claims were denied initially on December 17, 2010, and upon reconsideration April 25, 2011. Thereafter, Mr. Starks filed a written request for a hearing, which was held on January 6, 2012, before Administrative Law Judge Glenn G. Myers ("the ALJ"). Mr. Starks was represented by attorney Randi L. Black at the hearing. Also appearing at the hearing was Patricia B. Ayerza, an impartial vocational expert. On February 3, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision denying Mr. Starks benefits. On July 3, 2013, the Appeals Council denied Mr. Starks' request for a review of the ALJ's decision, thereby making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner for purposes of judicial review. Mr. Starks filed this civil action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), for review of the ALJ's decision.
B. Factual Background
Mr. Starks was thirty-four (34) years old at the time of his alleged onset date of April 1, 2005. He has a high school education, and past relevant work experience as an elder caregiver, a fish farm laborer, and a farm worker. Mr. Starks alleges disability due to post traumatic stress disorder ("PTSD"), back problems, depression, nerve damage, and other mental health issues. However, his appeal is based only upon the ALJ's assessment of his mental health issues and left arm pain that is secondary to his back problems.
1. Mental conditions
Mr. Starks had a psychological evaluation on September 13, 2010 with Dr. Phyllis Sanchez, Ph.D ("Dr. Sanchez"). Dr. Sanchez noted six symptoms associated with a functional mental disorder, including marked anger, moderate poor sleep, marked paranoia, mild isolation, moderate to marked anxiety and moderate nightmares. Dr. Sanchez also diagnosed Mr. Starks with marked adult onset PTSD; marked teen onset explosive anger; and alcohol, cocaine and marijuana dependence in remission since July 2010. With regard to Mr. Starks' functional limitations, Dr. Sanchez noted that he has mild difficulties learning new tasks and with the ability to care for himself, including personal hygiene and appearance; moderate limitations in his ability to perform routine tasks; marked limitations in his ability to exercise judgment and make decisions, the ability to relate appropriately to co-workers and supervisors and to interact appropriately in public contacts; and marked limitations in his ability to respond appropriately to and tolerate the pressures and expectations of a normal work setting, and to maintain appropriate behavior in a work setting. Dr. Sanchez determined that Mr. Starks is chronically mentally ill.
On September 29, 2010, Mr. Starks was seen for his anxiety by Dr. Sarah Rogers, M.D. ("Dr. Rogers"). Dr. Rogers noted that Mr. Starks had a constricted affect, and was anxious and paranoid. She started Mr. Starks on a trial of Seroquel because she believed he may have had an underlying diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder. Dr. Rogers saw Mr. Starks at a follow up visit on November 4, 2010. He reported being anxious, fearful, paranoid and having obsessive thoughts. He also gets irritable and angry, and has difficulty in crowds or around loud sounds. Dr. Rogers concluded that he suffers more from PTSD and depression than a schizoaffective disorder, and decided to discontinue the Seroquel. In a letter to the Social Security Administration ("SSA") dated October 18, 2011, Dr. Rogers stated that she believed he ultimately could rehabilitate and go back to work with appropriate treatment.
Mr. Starks attended a therapy session on January 11, 2011, with licensed social worker Charles Herndon. Mr. Herndon noted that Mr. Starks has almost 100% of the symptoms of PTSD listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. He was given the diagnoses of depression, anxiety, and PTSD. At a February 2, 2011 session, Mr. Herndon noted that Mr. Starks had a positive response to Celexa, which Mr. Starks associated with having a "good day" that day, meaning that he was non-vigilant and able to converse without usual reservations.
On March 17, 2011, Mr. Starks attended a psychological diagnostic evaluation by social security psychologist Dr. Wayne C. Dees, Psy.D. ("Dr. Dees"). Dr. Dees noted that Mr. Starks had been seeing a mental health provider every two weeks for the past six months. Mr. Starks reported frequently changing moods, feeling sad most of the day, low motivation, impaired attention and concentration, and poor self-esteem. He also reported lacking sufficient energy to perform activities of daily living and self-care on a consistent basis. Mr. Starks reported that he does not socialize with others, does not belong to any groups or clubs, does not attend church, and has no hobbies or interests. He is able to cook simple meals, shops independently, and is able to manage his own finances.
On August 3, 2011, Dr. James Czysz, Psy.D. ("Dr. Czysz") completed a psychological evaluation to access Mr. Starks' mental impairments. Dr. Czysz noted that Mr. Starks presented as a gruff, paranoid, and generally angry man who was initially edgy and guarded in the session, and later became tearful when asked about past trauma. Dr. Czysz noted marked paranoia; moderate explosive anger; marked depressed mood; and marked anxiety, hypervigilance, exaggerated startle response, and general mistrust. The doctor diagnosed him with PTSD, depression, personality disorder with antisocial features, and gave him a global assessment of functioning score of 35. However, Dr. Czysz also noted that Mr. Starks would benefit from mental health treatment and vocational assistance, which would likely restore or substantially improve his ability to work for pay in a regular and predictable manner.
On December 20, 2011, Dr. Rogers completed a Medical Source Statement of Ability to do Work-Related Activities. She noted that Mr. Starks has slight difficulties with understanding, remembering, and carrying out short, simple instructions. He also had marked difficulties in understanding, remembering and carrying out detailed instructions as well as the ability to make judgments on simple work-related decisions. Dr. Rogers also noted that Mr. Starks had difficulties with the ability to interact appropriately with co-workers and to respond ...