United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
KATHLEEN B. BURKE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Billie Rogers (“Rogers”) seeks judicial review of
the final decision of Defendant Commissioner of Social
Security (“Commissioner”) denying her application
for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”). Doc.
1. This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). This case is before the undersigned Magistrate Judge
pursuant to the consent of the parties. Doc. 13.
forth more fully below, the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) did not sufficiently explain his reasons
for concluding that Rogers' statements concerning her
symptoms were not fully credible. Thus, the Court cannot
ascertain whether substantial evidence supports the ALJ's
credibility determination or his evaluation of the opinion
evidence because the ALJ relied, in part, on his credibility
determination when evaluating the opinion evidence. For the
reasons stated below, the decision of the Commissioner is
REVERSED and REMANDED for
further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
protectively filed her application for DIB on August 30,
2014, alleging a disability onset date of March 4, 2014. Tr.
12, 143. She alleged disability based on the following:
post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, severe mood swings,
and depression. Tr. 191. After denials by the state agency
initially (Tr. 77) and on reconsideration (Tr. 87), Rogers
requested an administrative hearing (Tr. 101), and to amend
her onset date to August 30, 2014 (Tr. 164). A hearing was
held before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
Charles Shinn on June 2, 2016. Tr. 27-63. In his June 17,
2016, decision (Tr. 12-22), the ALJ determined that there are
jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national
economy that Rogers can perform, i.e. she is not disabled.
Tr. 21. Rogers requested review of the ALJ's decision by
the Appeals Council (Tr. 140) and, on May 11, 2017, the
Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ's decision
the final decision of the Commissioner. Tr. 1-4.
Personal and Vocational Evidence
was born in 1969 and was 44 years old on the date her
application was filed. Tr. 28. She graduated from high school
and last worked in August 2014 as a latex inspector/packer.
Tr. 33, 36-37.
Relevant Medical Evidence
August 4, 2014, Rogers saw nurse practitioner Judith Corcelli
at Portage Path Behavioral Health for medication management
and mood/behavior problems. Tr. 280-281. She requested a
different anxiety medication because the previous medication
had caused headaches. Tr. 280. Her Prazosin helped her sleep
through the night and she wasn't having nightmares. Tr.
280. She was still working. Tr. 280. Upon exam, her activity
was average, she was adequately groomed, had average eye
contact, clear speech, a constricted/blunted affect,
cooperative behavior, a depressed mood, fair judgment and
insight, and logical thoughts. Tr. 280. Corcelli adjusted
Roger's medications and recommended a follow-up
appointment in 10 to 12 weeks. Tr. 281.
next visit with Corcelli on October 17, 2014, Rogers reported
that she was taking her medications as prescribed and that
they were helping and she had less problems with anger,
although the medications were not lasting all day. Tr. 276.
She stated that when things aggravate her she is now more
easily able to let them go. Tr. 276. She was still having
problems with anxiety, anger, and nightmares and reported
breaking out in hives when she saw the consultative examiner
in connection with her disability application. Tr. 276. She
had to wait two hours for the doctor and it was too much for
her. Tr. 276. She reported panic attacks a couple of times a
month that made her feel like she was having a heart attack.
Tr. 276. She was fired from her job due to attitude problems.
Tr. 276. She rated her anxiety and depression 8/10 and stated
that she does not want to leave the house. Tr. 276. Her
mental exam findings were the same as her prior visit,
although her mood was also irritable. Tr. 276. After seeing
Corcelli, Rogers saw licensed social worker Cynthia Ball,
M.S. Tr. 278. Rogers explained that she was fired because she
threatened her boss after he got in her face
“again” and had gotten very angry when work
changed her shift time by a half an hour, stating, “I
don't like change.” Tr. 278. She has problems
keeping jobs due to her refusal to let people talk to her
“like that.” Tr. 278. The day after she was fired
her friend was also fired for standing up for herself when
the supervisor got nasty. Tr. 278. Her co-workers told her
that she is too angry and she agrees. Tr. 278. She is angry
with her husband, who, now that she is unemployed, expects
her to wait on him. Tr. 278. She is pretty happy until
someone “pisses her off, ” which is very easy to
do. Tr. 278. She is “always on the edge of being
angry” and she does not like to be around many people
because she is afraid someone will do something to make her
angry. Tr. 278. Her attitude has gotten worse since her
grandmother died 15 months ago and her kids moved out of
state. Tr. 278. She gets mad at other drivers and she feels
like other people are always doing things to make her mad.
Tr. 278. Upon exam, Rogers was angry, anxious, and depressed
with a dichotomous thought process; her other findings were
unchanged. Tr. 278. Ball suggested that Rogers' anger
would be “a normal response to a lot that has happened
to her.” Tr. 278.
November 11, 2014, Rogers reported to Ball that her increase
in Zoloft had been helpful and that she could “see that
a lot of things are not as bad as she would have once
thought.” Tr. 274. She was sleeping less and had more
interest in performing her daily activities. Tr. 274. Her
main stressor that day was that her cat might be pregnant,
although her veterinarian had previously stated that her cat
could not get pregnant; she planned to take her cat to the
veterinarian for a correct diagnosis. Tr. 274. Her mental
status exam findings were unchanged. Tr. 274. Ball joined
Rogers in “chuckling about the ‘miracle
kittens' that she may have when she comes in next
time.” Tr. 274.
December 4, 2014, Rogers saw Corcelli for medication
management. Tr. 271-271. Her nightmares were improving and
she was still depressed, did not want to go anywhere, was
“very edgy” and irritable. Tr. 271. She
experienced stress from visits from family and friends,
including children, who had visited her and she noted that
her house was not baby-proof. Tr. 271. Her cat had had
kittens. Tr. 271. She reported having a little more energy
during the day but stated that she was not getting continued
improvement with irritability. Tr. 271. Upon exam, she had a
full affect, cooperative behavior, an anxious mood, fair
insight and judgment and a logical thought process. Tr. 271.
Corcelli adjusted her medication. Tr. 272.
December 9, 2014, Rogers saw Ball, reporting an
“ok” Thanksgiving holiday until her mother-in-law
dropped by and started making “critical remarks.”
Tr. 269. Rogers allowed that her mother-in-law's behavior
had gotten worse since a severe head injury and that she did
not know whether that was the cause of her behavior. Tr. 269.
Ball discussed reasonable expectations regarding Roger's
mother-in-law's behavior and reminded her that she had
the ability to choose how much time she spent thinking about
it. Tr. 269. Upon exam, her mood was angry and her thought
process was dichotomous. Tr. 269.
January 14, 2015, Rogers saw Ball and reported that she had
found homes for all the kittens. Tr. 306. Her son and his
girlfriend had moved back from West Virginia and into her
home and were looking for work. Tr. 306. Her husband
continued to annoy her despite her requesting he stop; this
caused her to break out in hives and she had threatened to
punch him, but knows that she would get into trouble if she
did. Tr. 306. Upon exam, her mood was angry and anxious and
Ball counseled her on reflective techniques and encouraged
her to have her cats fixed. Tr. 306.
February 6, 2015, Rogers saw Ball again and complained of
continuing irritation with her husband concerning things he
did and said that she found annoying despite the fact that
she has asked him to stop. Tr. 304. She believed that, if he
cared about her, he would stop. Tr. 304. To her, this was a
very big deal. Tr. 304. Upon exam, her affect was
appropriate, she was cooperative, her mood was depressed and
angry, and her thought process was dichotomous. Tr. 304. Ball
“normalized her annoyance” with her husband's
behavior and counseled her on how to rate problems, 10 being
life-threatening, and commented, “Client kept insisting
that her annoyance is a 10, even though it is not life
threatening.” Tr. 304. Rogers was
“resistant” to reconsidering the level of her
response but was willing to think about it as well as gender
differences and her expectations. Tr. 304.
February 19, Rogers saw Corcelli for medication management.
Tr. 301. She reported that her mood was bad and that she
became angry in the evenings when her husband came home and
threw his clothes on the floor instead of the laundry basket.
Tr. 301. She liked to be home in the quiet. Tr. 301. She
reported getting angry when sitting in a physician's
office for a long period of time. Tr. 301. Upon exam, her
affect was blunted/constricted, she was cooperative, and her
mood was anxious and irritable. Tr. 301. She indicated that
the benefits of her mood stabilization medication
(Lamotrigine) had started to wane and Corcelli increased her
dosage. Tr. 302.
March 18, Rogers saw Ball, stating that she was less
irritable and her husband's annoying behavior did not
“get to her” as much anymore. Tr. 298. Her
increased dosage had helped her, but not when her 14-year old
dog died suddenly in the back yard and she had to take him to
the veterinarian to be cremated. Tr. 298. She was bothered by
her husband and wanted to leave him but could not because she
did not have any money. Tr. 298. She believed her husband
could kick her out because she was not sure if the house
belonged to her too. Tr. 298. She did not think she could
tolerate a workplace because “the last one was so
bad” and she could not handle a supervisor who
“gets in my place.” Tr. 298. She believes that
she has to yell back or strike out physically because that is
what she has always done. Tr. 298. Upon exam, she was
cooperative, her affect was appropriate, her mood was angry
and depressed, and she had a dichotomous thought process. Tr.
298. Ball emphasized that it was normal Rogers should feel
bad when her dog died and challenged her conclusions about
workplaces in general based on her experience in one
exceptionally bad workplace. Tr. 298-299. She assured Rogers
that no one likes people “getting in their face”
and encouraged Rogers to walk away rather than fight,
although Rogers was skeptical that walking away would prevent
people from staying out of her face. Tr. 299.
April 2, 2015, Rogers told Corcelli that she continued to
have problems with anxiety and irritability. Tr. 295. She
gets itchy when she is around other people and she is having
problems with road rage. Tr. 295. Upon exam, her affect was
constricted/blunted and her mood was depressed. Tr. 295. On
May 1, Rogers told Ball that she remains very irritable and
that her increased Lamotrigine has not helped. Tr. 292. She
was almost in a road rage incident when a car almost rear
ended her and she jumped out of her car and yelled at the
offending driver. Tr. 292. She stated that she feels like
there is always someone following her or watching her, which
is why she stays in her house as much as possible. Tr. 292.
She is afraid that someone may be trying to kill her and
expressed a fear of dying and being unhappy with bugs
crawling on her in her grave. Tr. 292. Upon exam, her affect
was appropriate, her behavior agitated/restless, her mood
anxious, angry and depressed, and her thought process
irrational and dichotomous. Tr. 292.
22, Rogers told Ball that she was recovering from a visit
with her in-laws, whose children, she believed, stole her
GERD medication. Tr. 290. Her cat was pregnant again; Rogers
had not had her cats fixed. Tr. 290. Her husband had gotten
her a new puppy but was not helping her housebreak it. Tr.
290. She continued to avoid others, stayed home as much as
possible, and believed others were out to hurt her due to her
history of abuses from her mother, partners, and a former
friend. Tr. 290. She reported getting very irritated when
others do not do things the way they should, such as when
people know she is behind them and they hold her up. Tr. 290.
She does not think that she should have to speak up to ask
them to let her by. Tr. 290. She reported that she had been
accused of having a “bad attitude” which has
contributed to all of her job losses. Tr. 290. Upon exam, her
mood was angry, her thought process dichotomous, her insight
and judgment fair, her affect appropriate and her behavior
cooperative. Tr. 290.
25, 2015, Rogers saw Corcelli for medication management. Tr.
287. Her problems with nightmares and itching had improved,
but she still had problems with irritability and anxiety and
had a panic attack “[e]very once in a while, ”
for instance at the grocery store or where there was a lot of
people. Tr. 287. She mentioned her road rage incident when
she confronted a driver she thought was following her. Tr.
287. She rated her depression 10/10 and stated that she tries
to stay home and that she tends to sleep a lot. Tr. 287. Her
new puppy was keeping her very busy. Tr. 287. Upon exam, she
had average activity, was adequately groomed, had average eye
contact, clear speech, a constricted affect, cooperative
behavior, logical thoughts, and fair insight and judgment.
Tr. 287. Corcelli indicated that her status was
“improving.” Tr. 289.
14, 2015, Rogers saw Ball and reported that she found her
previously missing and presumed stolen GERD medication under
a table. Tr. 332. Her puppy was now completely housebroken
and her cat had had her kittens. Tr. 332. Her son and his
girlfriend had moved out and her husband's friend who had
been staying in the house was told to leave after he came
home inebriated and urinated all over the bathroom. Tr. 332.
She was angry most of the time and “just figures she
has to be that way.” Tr. 332. She referenced abuse from
her mother and her mother favoring her sister over her. Tr.
332. She continued to report dissatisfaction with her husband
and was waiting to be approved for disability benefits so
that she would have the money to leave him. Tr. 332. Ball
reminded her that her irritable response is caused by her own
outlook and attitude and that she could change. Tr. 332.
August 7, Rogers saw Corcelli for medication management and
reported that her anger issues have improved since her
medication dosage was increased. Tr. 329. She still had anger
“at times, ” part of which had to do with her
husband. Tr. 329. She moved out and in with her son for a day
but moved back home because she did not want to burden her
son. Tr. 329. She was still self-isolating and cannot be
around people because she gets rude if she has any problems.
Tr. 329. She was in a traffic jam for a half-hour the day
before, screamed at the police officer directing traffic, and
was angry for 10-15 minutes after that. Tr. 330. Corcelli
noted that Rogers' status was improving. Tr. 331.
August 14, 2015, Rogers told Ball that she still wanted to
leave her husband and hoped to get disability benefits. Tr.
327. She relayed that when she had left him he had already
changed the locks before she returned, his abuse had
worsened, and she regretted that she had returned. Tr. 327.
She went back because of her animals. Tr. 327. Ball counseled
her on planning a leave so that the next time she left she
had what she needed with her and would not need to return;
she also advised Rogers to speak to legal aid. Tr. 327.
September 10, Rogers told Ball that she had recently traveled
to West Virginia for her uncle's funeral and was reminded
how much better she felt in the mountains. Tr. 325. She slept
for 8 hours straight, which she rarely does. Tr. 325. She
stated that she was slowly putting together a stash of things
she will need for when she leaves her husband and would like
to move to West Virginia. Tr. 325. She hoped to leave once
she got money from disability benefits. Tr. 325. Upon exam,
she was cooperative, had an appropriate affect, was angry and
depressed, and had dichotomous thoughts. Tr. 325.
October 30, 2015, Rogers told Ball that she is making minimal
progress, if any, after having learned that her husband was
going to lose his job and would be home more. Tr. 322.
upset with her mother-in-law, who expected Rogers to run
errands for her promptly and at any time, and she
“doesn't want to go to the store because the people
there ‘make me mad…they don't do what they
are supposed to do....Stay out of my way, or get out of my
way when I say excuse me.'” Tr. 322. Ball wrote,
“[Rogers] pretty sure that others are responsible for
all her feelings.” Tr. 322. Her exam findings were
similar to her prior visit. Tr. 322. Ball invited Rogers to
look for one good thing in each day to show that the whole
day was not bad. Tr. 323.
November 3, Rogers relayed to Corcelli how much she enjoyed
going to West Virginia and staying with relatives and she
considered whether this might be a better place for her to
live because people there were so nice. Tr. 318. She again
expressed dread that her husband would be off work soon and
home more and how he expected her to wait on him and
constantly told her to do things. Tr. 318. Corcelli observed
that it seemed Rogers' mood was better when she was away
from her husband and listed her condition as stable. Tr. 318,
November 30, Rogers saw Ball and reported problems with her
husband and “insist[ed] that ‘everybody'
should know how she wants them to behave, and [it] make[s]
her angry when they don't.” Tr. 316. She explained
that she used to be happy and outgoing but that she turned
angry and now wants to be alone most of the time. Tr. 316.
She reported that this began after she experienced several
losses, including her maternal grandmother who was her true
nurturer and protected her from her abusive mother. Tr. 316.
December 18, Rogers returned to Ball and said she was excited
for Christmas because her elder son, who lives in Indiana, is
coming to visit. Tr. 314. She applied for food stamps at the
Jobs and Family Services Center and got angry with the
problems in the parking lot and with all the commotion in the
room. Tr. 314. She was also angry because her sister told her
that she, her sister, had been made the executor of their
father's will and also that her stepbrother is a
beneficiary. Tr. 314. Rogers believed her sister told her
this just to make her angry. Tr. 314. She also relayed a
history of her mother and step-mother treating Rogers'
children worse than they had treated her sister's
children. Ball counseled Rogers on controlling her responses
to things and told her that she has the power to change her
life. Tr. 315. Rogers' exam findings were similar to past
findings. Tr. 314.
January 14, 2016, Rogers saw Corcelli and reported that the
holidays had not gone well, that her husband is home and was
“agitating, ” they were having financial
difficulty since her husband lost his job, she had gone to
get food stamps and was having panic attacks when she goes
out, and stated, “they are ‘hitting me
harder.'” Tr. 310. Corcelli adjusted her medication
and rated her condition as “baseline.” Tr. 312.
January 27, Rogers reported several panic attacks a day due
to her husband's constant attempts to get her upset. Tr.
335. She is grateful that he is starting a new temporary job
soon and will be out of the house. Tr. 335. She was
disappointed because her son could not come from Indiana for
Christmas and her mother-in-law came over and this
automatically made the day unpleasant. Tr. 335. She had
waited too long to get her cats fixed and she now had 5 new
kittens. Tr. 335. She was not sure that she could do anything
about her anger. Tr. 335. Ball provided her with information
explaining how a panic attack feels so that Rogers did not
worry that she was having a heart attack and counseled her on
having realistic expectations and to “disconnect the
buttons” to decrease her responses to her husband's
behavior. Tr. 336. Upon exam, she was cooperative,
appropriate and angry. Tr. 335.
February 19, Rogers repeated that she planned to leave her
husband when she started receiving disability benefits, had
started researching the housing market in West Virginia where
she would like to live, and was looking forward to her
husband returning to work. Tr. 354. She enjoyed watching the
kittens grow and play. Tr. 354.
March 18, 2016, Rogers told Ball hat her husband does all
kinds of things to annoy or “torture” her and she
spends a lot of time stewing about “what a jerk he
is.” Tr. 351. Rogers had sold all her kittens but was
now concerned that her dog was pregnant. Tr. 351. Her food
stamp assistance was reduced based on an income level that,
she stated, was incorrect. Tr. 351. She was annoyed that her
dogs appeared to like her husband more than her and thought
that they should like her better because she feeds them and
cleans up after them. Tr. 351. She expressed annoyance again
that her mother-in-law and husband ask her to run errands for
them even though they could do it themselves. Tr. 351.
March 24, Rogers told Corcelli that she was under significant
stress due to her husband being home; he is constantly
harping on her and he and his mother continued to ask her to
run errands for them. Tr. 347. She reported that her
medications were helping except that her husband has told her
that they are not because at some point during the day she
gets fed up and threatens to punch him. Tr. 347. She spoke
about some of the abuse she suffered from her mother when she
was a child, stated that she does not feel safe in public,
and shared that she recently had an “ugly
exchange” with a stranger when she had to step aside to
let him pass and he “gave her a look.” Tr. 348.
Upon exam, she had a constricted/blunted affect, an ...