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Patterson v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

March 8, 2017

LAQUANA PATTERSON ON BEHALF OF L.P., Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          James R. Knepp II United States Magistrate Judge

         Introduction

         LaQuana Patterson (“Patterson”) filed a Complaint against the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) on behalf of her son, L.P. (“Plaintiff”), seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's decision to deny supplemental security income (“SSI”). (Doc. 1). The district court has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c). The parties consented to the undersigned's exercise of jurisdiction in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Civil Rule 73. (Doc. 14). For the reasons stated below, the undersigned affirms the decision of the Commissioner.

         Procedural background

         Patterson first filed an application for SSI on behalf of her son in February 2011. (Tr. 64). An administrative law judge (“ALJ”) denied that application in a written decision in March 2012. (Tr. 64-84). In October 2012, Patterson filed a second application for SSI on behalf of Plaintiff, alleging a disability onset date of November 1, 2010. (Tr. 145-53). The claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration. (Tr. 110-12, 116-18). Patterson then requested a hearing before an ALJ. (Tr. 119). On July 3, 2014, Patterson (represented by counsel) appeared and testified in Cleveland, Ohio, at a hearing before the ALJ. (Tr. 39-60). On July 23, 2014, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled in a written decision. (Tr. 16-38). In December 2015, the Appeals Council denied Patterson's request for review, making the hearing decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-3); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.955, 404.981. Patterson filed the instant action on behalf of Plaintiff on January 19, 2016. (Doc. 1).

         Factual Background

         Educational and Medical Evidence

         Prior to the First ALJ Decision In December 2009, Plaintiff was referred to Beech Brook by his teacher due to disruptive, aggressive, and hyperactive classroom behavior. (Tr. 399, 410). A mental status examination by social worker Amy Lee revealed decreased impulse control, decreased frustration tolerance, reduced eye contact, psychomotor restlessness, impaired concentration, and impaired ability to focus. (Tr. 409). Plaintiff was assessed with oppositional defiant disorder (“ODD”) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (“ADHD”). (Tr. 410).

         In February 2010, Beech Brook psychiatrist Thomas D. Eppright, M.D., diagnosed Plaintiff with ADHD, and noted a need to rule out a learning disability. (Tr. 329). Dr. Eppright stated Plaintiff had “[s]ignificant impulsivity, distractibility, and hyperactivity”. Id. He started Plaintiff on a trial of Adderall and recommended Plaintiff continue the school based program through Beech Brook. Id.

         In February 2011, Patterson reported to social worker Deborah Casciato that Plaintiff had poor academic performance, a short attention span, hyperactivity, impulsivity, and oppositional behavior toward adults. (Tr. 281). Ms. Casciato referred Plaintiff for a mental health assessment with a psychologist. Id.

         In April 2011, Patterson reported medications helped Plaintiff significantly, but she was concerned about his appetite. (Tr. 270). The pediatrician noted he had “consistent weight gain and height velocity” with “[n]o drastic changes” and suggested nutritional supplements, as well as strategies to increase caloric intake. (Tr. 270-71).

         Plaintiff's November 2011 treatment plan through Beech Brook contained diagnoses of ODD, ADHD, and a learning disorder not otherwise specified. (Tr. 310). The plan indicated Plaintiff was in first grade, in special education classes, and did not note any disciplinary problems at school. (Tr. 321). Social worker Bridgid Ratcliffe noted Plaintiff had made minimal progress in his goals of expressing feelings appropriately and using coping strategies. (Tr. 323). Although noting minimal progress toward the goals of attending psychiatric assessments and evaluation sessions and receiving medical intervention, Ms. Ratcliffe wrote: “Doing well on meds.” Id. In summary, she noted: “Overall, we have seen minimal improvement with [Plaintiff].” (Tr. 324).

         Also in November 2011, Dr. Eppright noted Plaintiff was “doing well” and medication (Vyvanse) had been beneficial. (Tr. 331).

         In a decision dated March 22, 2012, the first ALJ found Plaintiff had severe impairments of ADHD and ODD. (Tr. 67). That ALJ concluded Plaintiff was not disabled because although he had a marked limitation in interacting and relating with others, he had less than marked, or no limitation, in the other functional domains. See Tr. 76-84.

         Subsequent to the First ALJ Decision

         Medical Records

         In July 2012, Patterson reported to Plaintiff's pediatrician, Sophia Orraca-Tetteh, M.D., that Plaintiff would repeat second grade that year. (Tr. 335). The pediatrician noted Plaintiff was in a program at Beech Brook for ADHD and behavior, and that he was “[r]eceiving therapy and counseling and on one medication and doing well.” Id.

         A Beech Brook review the following month by Kimberly Fuller, LSW, indicated Plaintiff had made minimal progress toward most goals. (Tr. 387-94). She noted “some progress as evidenced by decreased hyperactivity and impulsivity while on medication for the school year” and “minimal progress as evidenced by his ability to use at least 2 coping skills; however, he is unable to use these consistently or without prompting.” (Tr. 389). He was noted to be “improved” in his ability to “connect how he is felling to his actions.” (Tr. 390). On the parent version of an assessment, Plaintiff's problem severity decreased by thirteen points, and had a six point increase in functioning. (Tr. 391). On the social worker's version, he had a two point increase in problem severity and a nine point increase in functioning. Id.

         Also in August 2012, Dr. Eppright noted Plaintiff was doing well on his medication and that Patterson was “pleased with response to medication.” (Tr. 395). His impression was that Plaintiff was “[m]aking progress”. Id.

         Again in October 2012, Dr. Eppright noted Plaintiff had “been doing quite well” on Vyvanse, despite some appetite decrease. (Tr. 434). Patterson reported the school had noted significant improvement in his ability to concentrate. Id. Dr. Eppright recommended Plaintiff skip his medication on the weekends to counteract the decreased appetite side effect. Id.

         In December 2012, Patterson reported an increase in Plaintiff's ADHD symptoms that both she and the school had noticed. (Tr. 433). Dr. Eppright increased Plaintiff's Vyvanse dosage. Id.

         A Beech Brook review in January 2013 of Plaintiff's treatment plan indicated continuing diagnoses of ODD, ADHD, and learning disorder. (Tr. 413). Ms. Fuller noted Plaintiff had been suspended twice in five months for disrupting his class and a fight with peers. (Tr. 424). She noted that he “has only been reported to have significant challenges when in his special education classroom” and that he “has made progress at home, but has continued to have challenges at school with his special education teacher.” (Tr. 424-25). Ms. Fuller noted Plaintiff had improved his behavior toward Patterson and his primary education teacher, but “struggles on a daily basis to respect his special education teacher, and as a result has minimally increased his knowledge from the first grade.” (Tr. 428). She noted Plaintiff's behavior improved on medication, but the medication appeared to have slowed his thinking process. Id.

         Later that same month, Dr. Eppright noted “significant improvement” in impulsivity, hyperactivity, and distractibility with the increased Vyvanse dosage, with no side effects. (Tr. 432). Plaintiff told Dr. Eppright he liked school and believed he was making progress. Id. Dr. Eppright's impression was Plaintiff was “[d]oing well.” Id. That same day, Dr. Eppright completed a form indicating Plaintiff had marked limitations in acquiring and using information, caring for self, health and physical well-being, attending and completing tasks, and interacting and relating with others. (Tr. 436-38). He also indicated Plaintiff had a moderate limitation in moving about and manipulating objects. (Tr. 438).

         In May 2013, Ms. Fuller completed a questionnaire in which she indicated Plaintiff had marked limitations in acquiring and using information, attending and completing tasks, interacting and relating with others, and caring for self. (Tr. 468-69). She also indicated Plaintiff had moderate limitations in moving about and manipulating objects, and health and physical well-being. (Tr. 469-70). Ms. Fuller noted Plaintiff's medication “sometimes delays his processing of material and verbal output of information.” (Tr. 470).

         In November 2013, Dr. Eppright again completed a questionnaire, this time indicating Plaintiff had extreme limitations in acquiring and using information, attending and completing tasks, interacting and relating with others, and caring for self. (Tr. 472-74). He also indicated Plaintiff had a marked limitation in health and physical well-being, and no limitation in moving about and manipulating objects. (Tr. 473-74).

         In February 2014, social worker Jasmine Merriweather, LSW, completed a review of Plaintiff's treatment plan for Beech Brook. (Tr. 485-502). Ms. Merriweather noted Patterson reported Plaintiff “is more compliant in being cooperative and following directions” and that calls from the school were less frequent. (Tr. 496). She described minimal progress, noting Plaintiff “continues to show signs of poor cooperation, inability to follow directions, maintaining focus and ge[t]s easily frustrated”, but had shown progress in “com[p]liance in cooperation [and] following directions.” (Tr. 497).

         In March 2014, Plaintiff's pediatrician noted he was “[e]ducationally very challenged” but “[d]oing well [w]ith performance ...


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