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Haskins v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

February 3, 2016

LISA HASKINS, Plaintiff,


William C. Griesbach, Chief Judge United States District Court

Plaintiff filed this action challenging the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her disability benefits. For the reasons given below, the decision of the Commissioner will be affirmed.

I. Background

Plaintiff suffers from a number of mental health issues, which she alleged were exacerbated by the suicide of her son in 2007. These include depression, which has resulted in suicidal ideation and a suicide attempt, as well as ADHD, anxiety and borderline personality disorder. Over the years she held a number of different jobs, including as a waitress, but these seldom lasted very long due to personality issues, panic attacks, and other workplace conflicts, including what the Plaintiff described as harassment. On one occasion, she alleged, a lawyer at a law firm attempted to have her sign a contract agreeing to have sex with him and to allow him to spank her. (R. 503.)

Treatment notes from 2007 and 2008 indicate an individual with ADHD, marital problems, and difficulties coping with the death of her son. (R. 445-47.) At her lowest point, she indicated planning her own funeral because she wanted to be with her son so badly. (R. 447.) In August 2007, just two months after the suicide, she was deemed to be “profoundly depressed” and a “severe” risk of suicide herself. (R. 447-48.) She was assessed a global assessment of functioning (GAF) score of 30-40.

In 2009-2012, however, she appeared to have been much improved, receiving treatment only for her ADHD, which was controlled with Vyvanse and Adderall. (R. 450-54.) In 2009 she received a perfect score on an exam in Indian law. (R. 464.) Although she still experienced some PTSD symptoms due to the death of her son, “her mood for the most part has been good.” (R. 464.) In 2010 she reported feeling “good, ” and had a desire to attend law school. (R. 462.) In an appointment with a psychiatric nurse, she expressed some anxiety about her husband’s behavior but felt better after the counseling session. The nurse assigned a GAF score of 70. (R. 458-59.)

In February 2012, the Plaintiff underwent a psychological exam with Dr. DuBord. (R. 425-29.) The psychologist noted problems with borderline personality disorder, as well as the Plaintiff’s dramatic and emotional presentation, possibly due in part to the fact that she had not taken her Adderall prior to the second of the two exam appointments. (R. 426.) The examiner concluded that “without treatment, it appears unlikely that Ms. Haskins would be able to succeed either on a job or in college.” (R. 428.)

In 2013 Plaintiff underwent another consultative psychological exam, this time with Dr. Schedgick. The exam was remarkable, in the psychologist’s view, for the Plaintiff’s grossly inappropriately sexual dress, as well as for her noticeable lack of effort on several tasks. (R. 502-17.) Dr. Schedgick questioned many of her assertions, including that she was experiencing physical pain and hallucinations or flashbacks, and he noted that she had been “evasive” in several segments of the interview. Dr. Schedgick ultimately viewed her has having the ability to carry out tasks, understand directions, and otherwise work appropriately in a normal work setting, although he noted that her “personality features” might pose an obstacle. (R. 516-17.) He assigned a GAF score of 75-80.

Two state agency psychologists reviewed the record and concluded the Plaintiff has the ability to work. (R. 105-107.) They found that the Plaintiff would be able to follow instructions and perform up to employment expectations so long as she had minimal contact with others in the work setting. (R. 105, 141.) They also found that the Plaintiff’s statements regarding the severity of her symptoms was only partially credible in light of the whole record. (R. 139.)

The ALJ concluded that the Plaintiff has only mild restrictions in daily living: for example, she lives alone and was able to obtain a college degree, get a paralegal certificate, and an internship in Washington, DC. (R. 15.) In social functioning, she has moderate difficulties. As the consulting examiner found, if she desired to behave appropriately around co-workers, she could. (R. 515.) The ALJ also concluded that Plaintiff’s personality disorder could interfere with her ability to maintain an adequate pace. Ultimately, the ALJ found the Plaintiff retained the ability to perform a full range of work, so long as the work involved simple, routine tasks, limited contact with other co-workers or the public, and minimal changes in routine. (R. 16.) The work also must not be at an assembly-line pace. (Id.)

II. Analysis

The Commissioner's final decision will be upheld if the ALJ applied the correct legal standards and supported his decision with substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Jelinek v. Astrue, 662 F.3d 805, 811 (7th Cir. 2011). Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Skinner v. Astrue, 478 F.3d 836, 841 (7th Cir. 2007).

A. Dr. Schedgick’s Opinion

The Plaintiff first argues that the ALJ erred by relying on Dr. Schedgick’s statements to the effect that the Plaintiff could deal with work situations “if she chose.” (R. 14, 516-517.) In the Plaintiff’s view, the ALJ’s error was in believing that Plaintiff’s limitations were a matter of choice-she simply had a bad attitude, in common parlance-when in fact Dr. Schedgick repeatedly noted that her “personality features” played a significant or even dominant role in her behavior. In short, the Plaintiff ...

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