United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
DONNA L. MAWK, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW
WALTON PRATT, JUDGE
Donna L. Mawk (“Mawk”) requests judicial review
of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration (the “Commissioner”)
denying her Application for Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security
Act (the “Act”) as well as Title II1. For the
following reasons, the Court REMANDS the
decision of the Commissioner for further consideration.
August 26, 2013, Mawk filed an application for disability
benefits under Title II and SSI, alleging a disability onset
beginning May 28, 2013 in both applications. (Filing No.
13-2 at 17.) Her claims were initially denied on
November 25, 2013, and upon reconsideration on January 24,
2014. Id. at 17. Mawk timely filed a request for a
hearing, which was held on June 11, 2015, via a
video-conference, before Administrative Law Judge Roxanne
Fuller (the “ALJ”). The ALJ issued a decision on
October 21, 2015, denying Mawk's applications.
Id. at 32.
November 19, 2015, Mawk then requested review by the Appeals
Council. Id. at 13. On December 16, 2016, the
Appeals Council denied her request for review of the
ALJ's decision, making the ALJ's decision the final
decision of the Commissioner for purposes of judicial review.
Id. at 2. On February 10, 2017, Mawk filed this
action for judicial review of the ALJ's decision pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (Filing No. 1.)
time of Mawk's alleged onset date in 2013, she was fifty
(50) years old. She has a high school education. (Filing
No. 15 at 5.) Her past relevant work included
collections agent, home health aide, automobile assembler, a
forklift operator, and a machine operator. Id. Mawk
alleges the following impairments: severe depression,
anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”),
diabetic nerve damage, neuropathy, diabetes, asthma, chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease, and high blood pressure.
Id. at 5. The Court finds no reversible error with
the ALJ's consideration of Mawk's physical
impairments, therefore the factual background will discuss
only Mawk's mental impairments. Specifically, Mawk's
mental health diagnoses include attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder (“ADHD”), PTSD, bipolar
II, and avoidant personality disorder. Id. at 9.
7, 2013. Mawk underwent a psychiatric evaluation at Meridian
Services due to having problems with sleep and fatigue
throughout the day. (Filing No. 13-7 at 11.) She was
diagnosed with Dysthymic Disorder and PTSD. Her treatment
plan included weekly individual therapy for one hour per
session, group therapy for up to three hours per session, and
she was prescribed medication. (Filing No. 13-7 at
12.) Mawk was also assigned a global assessment of
functioning (“GAF”) of 52. Id. At the
time of the evaluation, Mawk had been going to therapy off
and on for twenty years and was on antidepressants.
(Filing No. 15 at 5.)
November 12, 2013, Dr. Kenneth McCoy (“Dr.
McCoy”) saw Mawk for a consultative examination by a
social security examiner. (Filing No. 13-7 at 54.)
Mawk reported that her emotional distress was accompanied by
dysphoria, fatigue, anhedonia, hopelessness, sleep
disturbances, increased anxiety, excessive worry, racing
thoughts, and irritability. Id. at 55. She also
reported that she left her last job due to not being able to
get out of bed and get to work due to her depression. Dr.
McCoy noted that based on his mental status examination,
Mawk's depression and attention problems may interfere
with her ability to attend to a simple, repetitive task
continuously for a two-hour period. Id. at 56. Dr.
McCoy also noted that Mawk's working memory and serial
ability were below average. Id. at 57. He diagnosed
her mental impairments as PTSD and Major Depression,
recurrent. Id. Dr. McCoy assigned Mawk a GAF of 65.
2012, Mawk has had ongoing issues with mental health
treatment. (Filing No. 15 at 9.) Her symptoms
include isolation, low motivation, forgetfulness, poor task
completion, low self-esteem, distrust in relationships,
socially inhibited, and sadness. Id. Even with
ongoing therapy and medication, she still experiences
anhedonia, thoughts of helplessness, hopelessness, crying
spells, and an overall feeling of despair. Mawk's care
plan includes several hours of weekly therapy sessions.
(Filing No. 13-5 at 4-5.) Her symptoms fluctuate. At
times she reports doing better, while at other times she
becomes so panicked that she cannot drive to see her
psychiatrist by herself. (Filing No. 15 at 9.)
Childress (“Childress”), Mawk's treating
therapist who works under the supervision of Mawk's
treating psychiatrist, completed a mental impairment
questionnaire based on her treatment relationship of weekly
therapy sessions with Mawk for over a year. Id. at
10. Childress noted that Mawk's diagnoses included: ADHD,
PTSD, Avoidant Personality Disorder, and a prior diagnosis of
Bipolar II. (Filing No. 13-14 at 73.) Mawk's
psychiatric medications include Lamictal (100 mg), Concerta
(54 mg), and Methylephenidate (10 mg). Childress'
clinical findings indicated the severity of Mawk's mental
impairments which include: significant trauma history which
causes nightmares, reoccurring thoughts, changes in mood,
persistent sadness, avoidance, and isolation. Id.
Childress checked boxes identifying Mawk's symptoms which
also included: recurrent and intrusive recollections of a
traumatic experience which are a source of marked distress,
paranoid thinking or inappropriate suspiciousness, easy
distractibility, recurrent severe panic attacks manifested by
a sudden unpredictable onset of intense apprehension, fear,
terror, and sense of impending doom occurring on the average
at least once a week, bipolar syndrome with a history of
episodic periods manifested by the full symptomatic picture
of both manic and depressive syndromes, and hyperactivity.
(Filing No. 13-14 at 74.) Childress noted that Mawk
is seriously limited, but not precluded from, responding
appropriately to changes in a routine work setting. Under the
category of “Unable to Meet Competitive
Standards” Childress checked that Mawk cannot maintain
attention for a two-hour segment; work in coordination with
or proximity to others without being unduly distracted;
complete a normal workday and workweek without interruptions
from psychologically based symptoms; or deal with normal work
stress. Id. at 75.
explained in the “notes section” that Mawk's
ADHD poses limitations with carelessness; difficulty with
organization and sustaining attention in activities; poor
task completion skills; and easily distractible. Id.
As a result of Mawk's PTSD she tends to be hypervigilant,
distrustful, isolating, and avoidant. Mawk is limited, but
satisfactory with the ability to deal with the stress of
semiskilled and skilled work and is unable to meet
competitive standards with the ability to understand,
remember, and carry out detailed instructions. Id.
at 76. Clinical findings indicate that Mawk experiences
varying degrees of marked and extreme difficulties in
maintaining social functioning; extreme difficulties in
maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace; and has
experienced four or more episodes of decompensation within a
twelve-month period, each of at least two weeks duration.
Id. at 77. Childress noted that on average, Mawk
would miss more than four days per month as a result of her
impairments or treatment. Id. at 78.
November 21, 2013, State agency consultative psychological
consultant Kenneth Neville, Ph.D. (“Dr. Neville”)
evaluated Mawk. (Filing No. 13-3 at 7.) On January
24, 2014, State agency consultative psychological consultant
Joelle Larsen, Ph.D. (“Dr. Larsen”) also
evaluated Mawk. (Filing No. 13-3 at 29.) Both
consultants opined that Mawk's mental disorders were
non-severe and had only a mild effect on her ability ...