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Catlett v. Berryhill

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

May 18, 2017

CHRISTOPHER CATLETT, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [1] Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE

         Plaintiff Christopher Catlett (“Catlett”) requests judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the “Commissioner”), denying his applications for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act (the “Act”), and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Act.[2]For the following reasons, the Court REMANDS the decision of the Commissioner for further consideration.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural History

         On February 26, 2013, Catlett protectively filed applications for DIB and SSI, alleging a disability onset date of January 6, 2012, due to multiple sclerosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, and congestive heart failure. His claims were initially denied on June 3, 2013, and again on reconsideration on September 4, 2013. Catlett filed a written request for a hearing on November 6, 2013. On December 17, 2014, a hearing was held via video conference before Administrative Law Judge Elliott Bunce (the “ALJ”). Catlett was present and represented by counsel. A vocational expert, Bassey A. Duke, appeared and testified at the hearing. On January 6, 2015, the ALJ denied Catlett's applications for DIB and SSI. Following this decision, Catlett requested review by the Appeals Council on January 28, 2015. On June 3, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Catlett's request for review of the ALJ's decision, thereby making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner for purposes of judicial review. On June 24, 2016, Catlett filed this action for judicial review of the ALJ's decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         B. Factual Background

         At the time of his alleged disability onset date, Catlett was forty-one years old, and he was forty-four years old at the time of the ALJ's decision. Catlett graduated from high school and attended two years of college. Prior to the onset of his alleged disability, Catlett had an employment history of working as a forklift driver, inventory clerk, stock clerk, and unloader. However, Catlett stopped working because of the pain and other symptoms associated with his impairments.

         The Court focuses on Catlett's impairment of depression because this impairment is the primary focus of Catlett's request for reversal of the ALJ's decision and remand for further consideration. Using language from the ALJ's decision, the Court only summarizes Catlett's other impairments:

[Catlett] has gone to the hospital for chest pain, and he eventually had a coronary stent placed. The claimant's brain MRIs show the presence of [multiple sclerosis], and he reports having numbness in the legs due to diabetes mellitus. He has had no mental health treatment other than medication management, but he was diagnosed with a mental health impairment during a consultative examination.

(Filing No. 13-2 at 28.)

         In his medical records dating as early as June 2011, Catlett carried diagnoses of depression and anxiety (Filing No. 13-8 at 110). During a cardiology office visit in June 2011, it was noted that Catlett had an appropriate mood, memory, and judgment. Id. at 112.

         Catlett received treatment from neurologist Kuimil K. Mohan, M.D. (“Dr. Mohan”), for back and other pain, and during an office visit in February 2012, Dr. Mohan recorded that Catlett had normal memory, normal attention span and concentration, normal fund of knowledge, and normal orientation to time, place, and person following a neurological evaluation. It was also noted that Catlett had no suicidal thoughts (Filing No. 13-7 at 55-56). Dr. Mohan made the same observations of Catlett in March 2012 (Filing No. 13-18 at 15).

         During a cardiology office visit in February 2013, Joseph Lauer, M.D., noted Catlett's diagnoses of depression and anxiety and also noted that Catlett had appropriate mood, memory, and judgment (Filing No. 13-8 at 79-81). In March 2013, Catlett was seen by Dmitry Arbuck, M.D. (“Dr. Arbuck”). Dr. Arbuck made note of Catlett's anxiety and major depressive disorder and recommended that Catlett stop taking Cymbalta and start taking Viibryd to address his depression and anxiety (Filing No. 13-12 at 18-21).

         In March 2013, on his “personal data form” at Meridian Health Group, Catlett rated his mental health as “good, ” with the other options being average, below average, or poor. He also reported that he had depression but no other psychological concerns. Id. at 2, 6. From a progress note of an office visit to Indiana Polyclinic in April 2013, it was noted that Catlett had a “blunted affect” and was taking his medication for depression and anxiety. Id. at 29. At a follow-up visit to Indiana Polyclinic in May 2013, Catlett reported that his depression and anxiety were a “9” on a scale of 0 to 10 and that he was irritable and angry and experiencing hallucinations and side effects from his medications. Id. at 30.

         After Catlett filed his applications for SSI and DIB, the state disability office asked Angela Hunnicutt, Ph.D. (“Dr. Hunnicutt”), to conduct a psychological evaluation of Catlett in May 2013. (Filing No. 13-10 at 65.) Catlett reported being depressed since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis but denied a history of depression before the diagnosis. He reported to Dr. Hunnicutt that he had never received therapy for his depression. He denied a history of anxiety. Catlett “described his energy level as intermittent, ” and explained that “he can watch an hour of TV before his mind wanders.” Id.

         Dr. Hunnicutt observed that Catlett had good eye contact and was appropriately groomed. Dr. Hunnicutt recorded that Catlett appeared to have average intelligence and was alert throughout the interview. He was cooperative and had organized thoughts, appropriate ...


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