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Fitzenreiter v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

January 10, 2018

DAVID N. FITZENREITER, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JAMES R. KNEPP, II UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Introduction

         Plaintiff David Fitzenreiter (“Plaintiff”) filed a Complaint against the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's decision to deny disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and supplemental security income (“SSI”). (Doc. 1). The district court has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1383(c) and 405(g). The parties consented to the undersigned's exercise of jurisdiction in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Civil Rule 73. (Doc. 15). For the reasons stated below, the undersigned affirms the decision of the Commissioner.

         Procedural Background

         Plaintiff protectively filed for DIB and SSI in September 2013, alleging a disability onset date of August 31, 2008. (Tr. 236-46). His claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration. (Tr. 88-153; 156-84). Plaintiff then requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). (Tr. 185). Plaintiff (represented by counsel), and a vocational expert (“VE”) testified at a hearing before the ALJ on August 18, 2015. (Tr. 33-87). On October 7, 2015, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled in a written decision. (Tr. 11-26). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the hearing decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-5); see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.955, 404.981, 416.1455, 416.1481. Plaintiff timely filed the instant action on October 5, 2016. (Doc. 1).

         Factual Background

         Personal Background and Testimony

         Plaintiff was born in May 1961, making him 47 years old at his alleged onset date. (Tr. 88). He had a high-school education (GED) and past work as a forklift operator, material handler, pressing machine operator, and food packer. (Tr. 24, 39-45, 78).

         In an October 2013 function report, Plaintiff explained he was limited in his ability to work because, among other things: “I don't understand instruction [sic] sometimes and get anxious and depressed. I forget thing [sic] more.” (Tr. 302). He reported activities of caring for pets, yard work, laundry, preparing meals, grocery shopping, and chatting online. (Tr. 303-06). Plaintiff reported he had trouble getting along “sometimes with sibling [sic] and neighbor [sic] who gossip. And game player [sic] at work” and that he was “more anti-social” and did not go out. (Tr. 307). He also indicated he could pay attention for ten to fifteen minutes, but had difficulty following instructions because “[s]ometimes it gets confusing, can't remember as well as I used to.” Id. In response to a question about how he got along with authority figures, he responded: “very well, bosses most of the time but not always”, and he indicated he had never been fired or laid off for not getting along with people. (Tr. 308).

         At the August 2015 hearing before the ALJ, Plaintiff testified he lived alone in a home owned by his mother. (Tr. 37). Plaintiff testified he believed he could not work due to anxiety and depression. (Tr. 45-46). He explained what had changed since 2008 to the present affecting his ability to work was:

I've just had a lot of eye opening experiences. I've gone over things in my past. I found out things that were done to me that I never knew by people recently and it has kind of been on my mind a lot. I try to keep busy so I don't think about it, but it really hurts a lot to think about some of the things that I found out that were done to me.
***
What's different is that I'm seeing things in a whole new light. I don't see things the way I used to see things before. I have a more negative outlook on life and everything.
***
I fear about people and the games and stuff. I don't want to be part of all that, but it just seems to be a normal thing everywhere I go. Either that or I'm imagining it. I might be imagining it.

(Tr. 69-71). He also testified he could not work: “Because I just have a hard time concentrating. Concentrating on the job. Being in one place for too long. . . . I don't know, I just don't feel comfortable with it anymore.” (Tr. 73).

         Plaintiff testified he saw his psychiatrist, Dr. Williams, every twelve weeks, but “[s]ometimes it's less than that” and saw a therapist weekly or biweekly. (Tr. 50-51). Plaintiff had been under the care of the Stress Center since 1989 (for panic attacks), and had been seeing Dr. Williams specifically for fifteen years. (Tr. 64).

         Plaintiff testified he had memory problems, “forgetting things more often and not remembering stuff and losing things”, but did not need reminders to take his medication. (Tr. 53-54). With regard to concentration, Plaintiff said he tended “to drift off and think about other things that [he's] not supposed to be - - shouldn't be - - [he had] a hard time focusing on what [he] should be doing.” (Tr. 54). These concentration problems went “all the way back to grade school.” Id.

         Plaintiff testified he had trouble understanding instructions in past jobs, and had always had trouble making decisions. (Tr. 55, 67). He also had trouble getting along with other people. (Tr. 56) (“And a lot of it just comes from my own frustrations because I can't seem to figure out what is wanted from them. And it's not necessarily their fault, it's just the frustration leads to - -“). Plaintiff said he “[s]ometimes” had trouble with supervisors “when they take credit for something [he] did” and “[s]ometimes” had trouble with coworkers “when they don't pull their fair share.” (Tr. 65). He also sometimes felt like coworkers were out to get him, and had previously left a job because of high anxiety. (Tr. 67). He explained he had left a prior job because: “People play head games. People try to get your job. People sabotage things so you get in trouble to get your job. You go to personnel and nothing is done.” (Tr. 44-45). He testified he felt like he was “always a little paranoid and watching over [his] back” and had “a hard time concentrating and . . . a hard time understanding what someone wants from [him].” (Tr. 46).

         Plaintiff also testified to anger issues, but anger management had been helpful. (Tr. 71-72).

         Plaintiff had “always had issues with [his] brothers and sisters”, which he attributed to the age difference between them. (Tr. 66). He said he had one friend, and that he “always seemed to be comfortable with having just one friend. . . . I just felt like I've never needed more than that.” Id.

         Plaintiff testified he had a nervous breakdown in 1989, for which he was hospitalized overnight. (Tr. 56, 73). He still had anxiety attacks “once in awhile”, but “not as severe as what they were back in 1989”. (Tr. 57). He could usually recover from them in “fifteen minutes or so”. Id.

         Plaintiff testified he checked on his mother daily, and helped her with household chores like laundry and meal preparation. (Tr. 58). He also performed chores at his own house, though not as much as he thought he should: “Dusting I don't like and I don't sweep as often as I should. I just mopped the kitchen floor, so I got that done. Dishes are never ending and I will never catch up with that in my life. I'm just not - - I have a problem keeping up with that.” (Tr. 59). Plaintiff also cared for birds and fish. (Tr. 60).

         Plaintiff testified he grocery shopped twice per month, and it took him approximately an hour. (Tr. 59-60). He would go early in the morning to avoid crowds. (Tr. 60); see also Tr. 73 (“I like to shop in peace and if a lot of people are around and stuff it tends to make me nervous. It always did.”).

         Relevant Medical Evidence[1]

         The record reflects (as Plaintiff testified to) a long history of mental health treatment. The Transcript contains records from Plaintiff's treating physician, George Williams, M.D., of Fulton County Health Center, starting in January 2008. See Tr. 460.

         The record contains two treatment notes from Dr. Williams in 2008 (prior to Plaintiff's alleged onset date). (Tr. 459-60). At both visits, Dr. Williams noted “[m]ood and mental status overall were fairly good”. Id. In January 2008, Plaintiff reported he had been working full-time for five months, and felt “his mood has been relatively stable.” (Tr. 460). In July, Plaintiff was still working, and was “[a]ble to keep up with responsibilities within his own home as well as his parents.” (Tr. 459). At both visits, Dr. Williams assessed “[p]anic disorder, stable”, and continued Plaintiff on his current medication of Cymbalta. (Tr. 459-60).

         The record contains three treatment notes from Dr. Williams in 2009. (Tr. 456-58). In February, Plaintiff did not have a job, but was looking. (Tr. 458). He was “staying active online with some contacts”. Id. In July, Plaintiff reported he was “still struggling from his previous job”. (Tr. 456). He described interpersonal problems that led to his departure (“he ended up having to leave there because it was becoming extraordinarily more difficult in light of the fact that there was an ongoing perception from many of the employees that the patient was ‘a narc.'”). Id. In October, Plaintiff was still job-searching, and was “preoccupied with taking care of his parents.” (Tr. 457). Plaintiff's “[m]ood and mental status” was “fairly good” (Tr. 457-58), or “about the same” (Tr. 456). In 2009, Plaintiff reported his medication was “helpful” (Tr. 458), and made his mood “fairly stable” (Tr. 457). At each visit, Dr. Williams again assessed “[p]anic disorder, stable”, and continued Plaintiff on Cymbalta. (Tr. 456-58).

         Plaintiff again saw Dr. Williams three times in 2010. (Tr. 453-55). In April, Plaintiff was looking for work, but “feeling as though the odds are stacked against him” and continuing “to have some issues with feeling as though there are others in the community that have less than a positive orientation towards him.” (Tr. 455). Dr. Williams observed that Plaintiff “seems to have some degree of suspicion regarding others within the community which may or may not be public knowledge issues.” Id. In September, Plaintiff was still looking for work, having some difficulty sleeping, and Dr. Williams noted “his mood has been up and down although for the most part not to any significant extreme.” (Tr. 454). Dr. Williams added a trial of Saphris at bedtime to address sleep, “as well as some of the suspicious thoughts that he has had over time.” Id. In December, Plaintiff expressed frustration over physical medical issues. (Tr. 453). He had not been taking the Saphris, but his sleep had been “good”. Id. At the 2010 visits, Plaintiff's mood and mental status were “about the same” (Tr. 455), “fair” (Tr. 454), and “fairly good” (Tr. 453). In April and December, Dr. Williams assessed “[p]anic disorder, stable”, (Tr. 453, 455) and in September, he assessed “[p]anic disorder” (Tr. 454). Plaintiff continued to take Cymbalta. (Tr. 453-55).

         In 2011, Plaintiff again saw Dr. Williams three times. (Tr. 450-52). In April, Plaintiff reported he had been “fairly good from a mood point of view”. (Tr. 452). In July, Plaintiff reported he had filed for bankruptcy, and had started a new job. (Tr. 451). In October, Plaintiff reported he had left the job due to erratic hours, and “he could not handle that physically”, but was looking for another job. (Tr. 450). “From a mood point of view, he [was] pleased that he [was] doing okay.” During this time, Plaintiff's mood and mental status were “fairly good” (Tr. 450, 452), and “fairly stable” (Tr. 451). In April and October, Dr. Williams assessed dysthymic disorder, and panic disorder (without agoraphobia). (Tr. 450, 452).[2] In April, he explicitly noted they were “[b]oth stable.” (Tr. 452). Dr. Williams continued the Cymbalta prescription, which Plaintiff reported to be helpful (Tr. 450-52), and provided more Saphris samples (Tr. 451-52).

         Plaintiff saw Dr. Williams four times in 2012. (Tr. 446-49). In April, Plaintiff reported he had worked in December 2011, but it ended because “they did not have enough work to keep on the temporary employees”. (Tr. 449). Plaintiff was hopeful that he would be hired back, and reported he “continues to do what he can . . . to help out his parents and keep up with the property.” Id. He reported no panic attacks, no significant symptoms of depression, and believed his mood to be “manageable/good.” Id. In July, Plaintiff reported “not much has changed overall”, and described some physical health issues. (Tr. 448). Dr. Williams noted “[o]therwise, he remains active” and that he was scheduled to return to work the following week. Id. In September, Plaintiff was working part-time, and hopeful for a full-time job. (Tr. 447). He reported things were “largely unchanged” and “going okay.” Id. In December, Plaintiff was “okay . . . from a mood point of view”, but frustrated with his inability to obtain and maintain employment. (Tr. 446). He “believe[d] that . . . people that he knows that have intentionally undermined his credibility with others which has put his employment opportunities at risk” and he was “thinking about applying for disability even.” (Tr. 446). During this time, Plaintiff's mood and mental status were “good” (Tr. 449), “fairly good” (Tr. 446, 448), and “fair/good” (Tr. 447). Dr. Williams continued to assess panic disorder, without agoraphobia, and dysthymia. (Tr. 446-49). He specifically noted Plaintiff's dysthymia to be stable at each visit id., and in September noted “[b]oth stable” (Tr. 447). Dr. Williams continued to prescribe Cymbalta. (Tr. 446-49).

         Plaintiff also saw Dr. Williams four times in 2013. (Tr. 442-45, 495-96).[3] In March, Plaintiff reported “not much has changed overall”, he was looking for work, and had been “occupying himself with tending to the needs of his elderly parents.” (Tr. 445). In May, Plaintiff reported “overall he has been doing fairly well”, was supporting his parents, and was still job-searching. (Tr. 444).[4] In August, Dr. Williams noted Plaintiff had anxiety with restlessness but depression was not clinically an issue. (Tr. 442).[5] Plaintiff himself reported mild anxiety, moderate depressed mood, and moderate stressors due to work, family, and financial issues. Id. Dr. Williams noted Plaintiff had “some ideas of reference, although [he could] not say [it] breaches into psychosis”. Id. His attitude was “cooperative yet somewhat irritable”, his attention was “good”, his speech “clear”, insight “fair”, judgment “appropriate”, thought process “logical, with some ideas of reference”, and thought content “appropriate to topic.” Id. Dr. Williams noted Plaintiff's “mood/condition” was “fairly stable over time, no obvious changes relative to previous visit.” (Tr. 443). In November, Dr. Williams noted Plaintiff had “ongoing anxiety and distress related to family dynamics.” (Tr. 495). Plaintiff's father had died six days prior, and Plaintiff thought his siblings were “joined in an approach to try to undermine his role within the family.” Id. Plaintiff also reported a domestic violence restraining order against him as a result of an argument with his siblings, “even though he did not touch anyone.” Id. Plaintiff was “trying to do what he can to be supportive” of his mother. Id. During this time, Plaintiff's mood and mental status were “good” (Tr. 445), “fairly good” (Tr. 444), euthymic, and “fairly stable” (Tr. 442-43), and “fairly stable despite the recent psychosocial stressors” (in November 2011) (Tr. 495). Dr. Williams continued to assess panic disorder, without agoraphobia, and dysthymia, noting them to be “stable” (Tr. 444-45), and “fairly stable” (Tr. 443). Dr. Williams continued to prescribe Cymbalta (Tr. 442-45, 495-96), which Plaintiff described as helpful (Tr. 444-45, 495).

         Plaintiff also began counseling in October 2013, undergoing an assessment with Julia Rossow, LSW. (Tr. 471-85).[6] Plaintiff reported struggling with family problems, and his father's illness. (Tr. 471). Plaintiff believed his siblings had contacted his physicians to “stick their noses in when they don't belong”. Id. He wanted to “learn to set boundaries”, “obtain inner spiritual peace”, and “work through how to deal with death”. Id. Plaintiff reported his support system consisted of his pastor and his parents, but he lacked social or peer support. Id. He reported he “watch[ed] church live”, “listen[ed] to soft music” and enjoyed gardening. Id. Plaintiff was unemployed (Tr. 471); when he had a job his attendance was normal, performance was good, but he would “worry constantly about who is going to play me next” (Tr. 472). On mental status examination, Ms. Rossow noted: well-groomed appearance; average demeanor, eye-contact, activity, and speech; moderate persecutory delusions; logical and tangential thought process; euthymic mood; full affect; cooperative behavior; and mildly impaired attention and concentration. (Tr. 481). Ms. Rossow noted Plaintiff needed to develop symptom management, employment, and social support skills. (Tr. 476). In support, she explained Plaintiff had “[i]nvasive thoughts”, “delusions that people have ulterior motives and they ‘play' him”, and that Plaintiff was “unable to work due to paranoid beliefs that co-workers pretend to be friends and get close to him and then ‘play' him.” Id.; see also Tr. 477. Ms. Rossow diagnosed panic disorder without agoraphobia and dysthymic disorder, and noted to rule out paranoid personality disorder and delusional disorder, persecutory type. (Tr. 478). She recommended Plaintiff continue treatment with his primary care provider and psychiatrist for pharmacological management and referred him to outpatient mental health therapy. Id.

         Plaintiff continued counseling with Ms. Rossow through the rest of 2013. (Tr. 526-37). Throughout this time period, Ms. Rossow never indicated Plaintiff's mood or affect was “notable”. (Tr. 526, 528, 530, 532, 534). During these sessions, Plaintiff reported he was pursuing disability, and discussed his father's illness and death, and issues with his family. (Tr. 526-37). Plaintiff reported his “feelings that he is naïve and people are ‘out to get him'”. (Tr. 526).

         Plaintiff continued to see both Dr. Williams and Ms. Rossow in 2014. See Tr. 491-92[7], 559-66 (Dr. Williams); Tr. 539-43; 638-718 (Ms. Rossow).

         In February, Plaintiff reported to Dr. Williams attending anger management classes after being convicted of disorderly conduct related to a family dispute. (Tr. 491). He found the anger management classes helpful. Id. In April, Plaintiff reported concerns about his mother's health, and problems with his siblings continued. (Tr. 563). In July, Plaintiff reported he “continue[d] to believe that his 3 siblings are conspiring against him and their mother”, and thought his siblings had “bugged” his phone. (Tr. 561). Dr. Williams noted Plaintiff “does have some fairly well developed and persistent beliefs with a persecutory theme although not so unusual as to characterize them as delusional without evidence to support this to be the case. A more likely consideration would be paranoid personality traits/disorder.” (Tr. 561-62). In October, Plaintiff again reported fears that his siblings were conspiring against him. (Tr. 559). Throughout 2014, Dr. Williams noted Plaintiffs mood remained consistent, and was euthymic or stable. (Tr. 491, 559, 561, 563). Dr. Williams continued to diagnose panic disorder without agoraphobia and dysthymic disorder, and continued Plaintiff's Cymbalta prescription. (Tr. 491, 559, 561-62, 563-64).

         Plaintiff attended counseling sessions with Ms. Rossow throughout 2014. See Tr. 539-43, 638-718. In these visits, he discussed anger and anxiety triggers; family dynamics, including anxiety surrounding his mother's health; and paranoia regarding his siblings' perceived actions, as well as coping skills to address these issues. Id. At each visit except one, Ms. Rossow checked a box indicating there was “[n]o significant change [in Plaintiff's condition] from last visit” and did not check the boxes indicating anything notable about Plaintiff's mood/affect, thought process/orientation, or behavior/functioning. (Tr. 539, 542, 641, 643, 646, 648, 650, 652, 654, 657, 659, 661, 663, 665, 667, 669, 671, 673, 675, 677, 679, 681, 684, 686, 688, 690, 693, 696, 698, 700, 702, 704, 706, 708, 711, 713, 717). At a December 2014, visit, Ms. Rossow checked a box indicating Plaintiff's “mood/affect” was notable, indicated Plaintiff reported increased anxiety and restlessness, and discussed coping skills. (Tr. 715).

         Plaintiff continued to see both Dr. Williams and Ms. Rossow in 2015. See Tr. 555-58, 772, 774 (Dr. Williams); Tr. 719-54 (Ms. Rossow).

         In January, Plaintiff reported frustration to Dr. Williams over “the lack of family cohesiveness and possibility that they may be attempting to limit him from gaining access to his guns”, which were taken away after the domestic violence charge. (Tr. 557). In July, Dr. Williams noted Plaintiff “states he has continued to do well overall relative to his last appt.” (Tr. 555). He reported counseling to be “helpful in general (not just with anger management)”. Id. In July, Plaintiff again reported “not much has changed”. (Tr. 772). He expressed frustration with “what he views as overly intrusive behavior from his sister” and worried about what might happen if his mother died and his sister gained control of the estate, as he was somewhat financially dependent on his mother. Id. In October, Plaintiff again stated he had “been managing okay” since his last appointment. (Tr. 774). He again expressed “some unresolved issues regarding trust with his siblings”, but his mother had been “supportive emotionally and financially”. Id. In January, May, and July, Dr. Williams continued his prior assessments of panic disorder without agoraphobia and dysthymic disorder. (Tr. 555, 557, 772). In October, he added “[m]ajor depression, recurrent - stable.” (Tr. 774). Throughout 2015, Plaintiff's mood was stable and euthymic, with no evidence of psychosis or delusional thought process. See Tr. 557; 555 (“[t]hought process reality based”); 772 (“mood appears euthymic. No real change in mental state relative to his previous appt.”); 774 (“Thought process reasonable, no evidence of rank paranoia or any delusional content.”). Dr. Williams continued Plaintiff on Cymbalta, which he found helpful. (Tr. 555-58, 772, 774).

         Plaintiff's 2015 counseling sessions with Ms. Rossow continued to address anger, anxiety, and coping skills; they also continued to address Plaintiff's family dynamic issues and beliefs that his siblings were out to get him. See Tr. 719-54. At each visit, Ms. Rossow checked a box indicating there was “[n]o significant change [in Plaintiff's condition] from last visit” and did not check the boxes indicating anything notable about Plaintiff's mood/affect, thought process/orientation, or behavior/functioning. (Tr. 719, 721, 723, 725, 727, 730, 732, 734, 737, 739, 742, 745, 747, 749, 751, 753).

         Plaintiff saw Dr. Williams again in January 2016 (after the ALJ's decision). (Tr. 775). Plaintiff reported worries about his mother's health, and “admit[ted] that assisting with his mother and her care needs and multiple doctor [appointments] has been wearing on him.” Id. Dr. Williams noted Plaintiff's medication to be helpful, and continued prior diagnoses: “[d]ysthymia, [p]anic do, [m]ajor depression recurrent-stable.” Id.

         Opinion Evidence

         Treating Providers

         In October 2013, Dr. Williams completed a “Medical Source Statement of Ability to do Work-Related Activities (Mental)”. (Tr. 461-63).[8] He opined Plaintiff had: mild limitation in the ability to understand, remember, and carry out simple instructions; moderate limitation in the ability to make judgments on simple work-related decisions; and marked limitation in the ability to understand, remember, and carry out complex instructions, as well as to make judgments on complex work-related decisions[9]. (Tr. 461). For findings in support, Dr. Williams wrote: “multiyear history of working with patient to treat his depression and anxiety”. Id. Dr. Williams also opined Plaintiff had moderate limitation in the ability to interact appropriately with the public; but marked limitation in the ability to interact appropriately with supervisors or coworkers; and marked to extreme limitation in responding appropriately to usual work situations and to changes in a routine work setting. (Tr. 462). In support, Dr. Williams wrote: “multiple employment failures due to concerns about thoughts, plans and observed behaviors of coworkers and supervisors that provoke extreme anxiety in patient” and “multiple previous accounts of job failure by patient over the years”. Id. Dr. Williams noted Plaintiff's judgment was impaired, in that Plaintiff “over interprets intentions of others in a threatening way.” Id. Dr. Williams opined Plaintiff's symptoms had been present since 1993. Id.

         In November 2013, Ms. Rossow completed a “Daily Activities Questionnaire”. (Tr. 466-67). Ms. Rossow noted Plaintiff lived alone in a home owned by his parents, and had no barriers to independent living. (Tr. 467). He got along well with his parents, but was estranged from his siblings, and “avoids contact with neighbors because of gossip.” Id. He saw his parents daily, his siblings at family functions, and talked daily with friends. Id. Ms. Rossow noted Plaintiff “reported he gets along well [with coworkers and supervisors] until they start playing games or gossip about him”. Id. He had been disciplined at work in the past “for exchange of words” and “was told to take 2-3 weeks off to deal with stress.” Id. Ms. Rossow noted Plaintiff had “poor tolerance for stress, experiences frequent headaches and perceives persecution.” Id. She opined Plaintiff's ability to prepare food was “limited by income” but “should improve now that he has food stamps.” (Tr. 466). He had no impairment in the ability to perform household chores, drive or take public transportation, and banking and bill paying. Id. He “could improve” his personal hygiene. Id. She opined Plaintiff regularly kept his appointments, complied with treatment goals, actively participated in treatment, and was working to improve coping skills. Id.

         In September 2014, Dr. Williams wrote a letter regarding Plaintiff's condition:

Mr. Fitzenreiter has been a patient of mine for many years at Fulton County Health center, receiving treatment for chronic mental illness which puts him at a significant disadvantage in terms of being able to obtain and maintain employment. He has substantial and longstanding issues with trust, even with family members. His social anxiety causes such disruption in his life that he barely even leaves home unless he absolutely has to. Additionally, he suffers from panic disorder and chronic low grade depressed mood over the course of many years known as dysthymia.
It is my opinion beyond reasonable doubt that despite optimum treatment, he maintains a sufficient burden of social disability that it precludes him from being able to engage in meaningful employment in the service of addressing his day to day financial responsibilities.

(Tr. 552).

         State Agency Reviewers

         In November 2013, state agency reviewing physician Denise Rabold, Ph.D., MA, CCC, SLP, reviewed Plaintiff's records on behalf of the state agency. (Tr. 93-98; 107-13). She concluded Plaintiff had mild restriction in activities of daily living, moderate difficulties in social functioning, and moderate difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence or pace. (Tr. 93). She concluded Plaintiff could: 1) understand and recall simple concrete 1-2 step instructions, but may need occasional repetition; 2) perform simple concrete 1-2 step tasks immediately without the demands of fast pace or high production rates and would need limited interaction/involvement with others; 3) interact infrequently and superficially with others and would do best with a small familiar group; and would 4) need a predictable static work environment where changes can be easily explained. (Tr. 97-98; 111-13).

         In March 2014, state agency physician Karla Voyten, Ph.D. reviewed Plaintiff's records on behalf of the state agency and affirmed Dr. Rabold's conclusions. (Tr. 125-32).

         VE Testimony

         A VE also appeared and testified before the ALJ. (Tr. 77-86). When the ALJ asked the VE to assume a hypothetical individual limited in the way ultimately found in Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (“RFC”), the VE testified such an individual could perform jobs of order picker, counter supply worker, or laundry worker. (Tr. 79-84).

         ALJ Decision

         In her written decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through June 30, 2014, and had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date. (Tr. 13). She found Plaintiff had severe impairments of panic disorder without agoraphobia, dysthymic disorder, type II diabetes mellitus, and left shoulder arthritis; but these impairments did not meet or medically equal a listed impairment either singly or in combination. (Tr. 13-15). The ALJ then concluded Plaintiff had the following mental RFC:

The claimant can understand, remember and carry out simple, routine and repetitive tasks but not at a production rate pace (e.g., assembly line work). He can understand, remember and carry out simple work-related decisions. Changes should be well explained and introduced slowly. The claimant also needs goal and plans outlined. He can frequently interact with supervisors. He can interact with coworkers and the public superficially meaning the ability to greet people, refer coworkers/public to other coworkers regarding customers' demands or requests, answer questions about time of day and give ...

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