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Watson v. Colvin

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

May 15, 2015

CHRISTINA A. WATSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW

Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge.

Plaintiff Christina A. Watson requests judicial review of the final decision of the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the “Commissioner”), denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act (the “Act”). The Court now rules as follows.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Watson filed her application for DIB on December 7, 2011, alleging disability beginning November 23, 2011, due to bipolar disorder. Watson’s application was initially denied on May 14, 2012, and again upon reconsideration on July 24, 2012. Thereafter, Watson requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). The hearing was held on March 14, 2013, via video conference before ALJ Hortensia Haaversen. Watson and her counsel appeared in Indianapolis, Indiana, and the ALJ presided over the hearing from Falls Church, Virginia. During the hearing, Nicholas Fidanza testified as a vocational expert. On April 4, 2013, the ALJ issued a decision denying Watson’s application for benefits. The Appeals Council upheld the ALJ’s decision and denied a request for review on July 1, 2014. This action for judicial review ensued.

II. EVIDENCE OF RECORD

Watson’s mental impairments are longstanding. In November 2011, however, her mental impairments worsened and she sought inpatient treatment due to severe depression and suicidal thoughts. After she was released, she began attending outpatient therapy and was prescribed medications to control her mood and anxiety.

In March 2012, just three months after her inpatient treatment, state-agency psychologist, Kenneth Lovko, Ph.D., reviewed Watson’s record and completed a Psychiatric Review Technique. At that time, he found that Watson met the requirements of Listing 12.04, Affective Disorders. Later that month, Bruce Lipetz, Psy.D., reviewed Dr. Lovko’s report and opined that Dr. Lovko’s findings were based on a limited record. He also concluded that it “appear[ed] unlikely that [Watson’s] condition [would] remain severe and markedly limit[ ] all work for an entire year.” Tr. at 521. As such, he maintained that more evidence from Watson’s treating sources was required.

As a result, in May 2012, after the record was further developed, Dr. Lovko reviewed the additional records and found that Watson did not meeting Listing 12.04. This time, he noted and opined as follows:

Additional information gathered from Gallahue includes last treatment notes on 4/16/12 which note [claimant’s] mood remains [sic] depressed. [Claimant] reporting increased panic attacks, has been snapping at husband, hasn’t been getting out and driving anywhere, has been avoiding others. No alcohol or drug use reported.
However, neurologist notes 2/12 that [claimant’s] bipolar is active but stable.
. . .
While [claimant] did have decline in functioning in 11/11 . . . [claimant] has prior history of being able to sustain employment and with ongoing treatment [she] should be capable of returning to this level of functioning . . .
While [claimant’s] symptoms may present some impediment to work situations with large numbers of people, it does seem that the [claimant] could deal with environments that have fewer persons in them, and where stress levels are limited.
The evidence suggests that claimant can understand, remember, and carry-out unskilled tasks without special considerations in many work environments. The claimant can related on at least a superficial . . . ongoing basis with co-workers and supervisors. The claimant can attend to task[s] for sufficient periods of time to ...

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