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Bubb v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

December 28, 2016

TIMOTHY BUBB, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


          STEPHEN L. CROCKER Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff Timothy Bubb seeks review of a final decision by defendant Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, denying his claim for child disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income under the Social Security Act. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Bubb, who was born February 15, 1994, applied for benefits at the age of 18, alleging that he had been disabled since January 1, 2010 as a result of numerous impairments and conditions, including asthma, left knee pain, depression, social anxiety disorder, oppositional defiant disorder and traits of a personality disorder. After the local disability agency twice denied his claim, Bubb had a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). The ALJ issued his decision on November 6, 2014, finding that Bubb was not disabled at any time between his alleged onset date and the time of the decision. Admin. Rec. (AR) 41-52. The Appeals Council denied Bubb's application for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.

         In this appeal, Bubb argues that the ALJ erred by failing to properly weigh the opinion of a consulting physician who examined him and by relying on flawed vocational expert (VE) testimony. For the reasons explained below, I conclude that neither of these challenges is well-founded. The ALJ issued a thorough decision that accounted for all the evidence of record and gave sound reasons for accepting some evidence and rejecting other evidence. Accordingly, I am affirming the Commissioner's decision.

         The following facts are drawn from the Administrative Record (AR), filed with the Commissioner's answer in this case:


         I. Medical History

         Timothy Bubb was born February 15, 1994. AR 43. In 2002, Bubb was diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder, anxiety disorder, possible ADHD and possible autism spectrum disorder. AR 49, 481-82. Although Bubb saw school counselors and treating providers as a child, he received very little mental health treatment during the alleged period of disability. AR 49, 449. Apart from an unsuccessful course of stimulant-based medication for ADHD symptoms as a child, Bubb did not take any medication or undergo therapy. Id.

         Following a rehabilitation evaluation conducted on December 22, 2011, Dr. Mark Ham diagnosed Bubb with social phobia, oppositional defiant disorder and possible ADHD and noted that although Bubb was socially isolated, he had an interest in developing relationships and had a girlfriend and two friends. AR 482-86. Dr. Ham evaluated Bubb again on January 31, 2012 and performed a variety of tests. He found that Bubb had average intellectual functioning, significantly delayed arithmetic skills, interpersonal problems, social anxiety problems, significant problems shifting from one task to another and significant problems controlling his emotions. AR 475-78.

         On February 27, 2013, plaintiff's treating physician, Dr. Brian Riddle, completed a “Medicaid Presumptive Disability” form on which he simply checked a box stating “[u]nable to work or return to normal functioning for at least 12 months.” AR 550-51. Dr. Riddle's progress notes from the same date indicate that he completed the form at the request of Bubb's mother, who told him that Bubb had a history of oppositional defiant disorder, questionable autism and ADHD. Dr. Riddle did not perform a mental status examination; he told Mrs. Bubb that he was referring Bubb to psychology “to try to have this issue cleared up” and that he would not sign another form unless Bubb was seen by psychology and formal diagnoses were made. AR 1768-69.

         Bubb saw Dr. Adam Ries and Dr. Julianne Davis for a psychological evaluation and testing to help facilitate his SSDI application. In a report dated January 14, 2014, the physicians diagnosed Bubb with social anxiety disorder, Cluster B and C personality features and possible mild autism spectrum disorder. AR 1810-15. They noted their concern that Bubb “appears to have become quite comfortable in the position of having his mother advocate for him, and his mother appears quite focused in her determination to help [Bubb] get on SSDI.” AR 1814. Because both of Bubb's parents were on SSDI, the physicians also were concerned that “a culture of idiosyncratic problem solving is being propagated, potentially undermining [Bubb's] independent functioning potential.” Id. Drs. Ries and Davis recommended that Bubb work to overcome his anxiety and expand his comfort zone because he tended to limit his efforts and may be “underestimating his ability to navigate social situations.” AR 1815.

         II. State Consulting Physicians

         At the initial and reconsideration levels of review, consulting physicians for the local disability agency reviewed Bubb's application for benefits and medical records. On May 28, 2013, state agency psychological consultant Dr. Roger Rattan concluded that Bubb had moderate limitations in the categories of adaptation (workplace stress), social interaction, understanding and memory with respect to complex tasks and detailed instructions, and concentration, persistence and pace. However, Dr. Rattan determined that even with these limitations, Bubb could perform simple, repetitive tasks and meet the basic mental demands of unskilled work on a sustained basis. AR 123-26.

         After examining Bubb on September 21, 2012, Dr. Marlin Trulsen issued a report to the state Disability Determination Bureau, finding that Bubb demonstrated a moderate to occasional marked level of impairment in responding appropriately to brief and superficial contact with co-workers and supervisors. AR 506-11. Dr. Trulsen noted that Bubb appeared “generally capable of tolerating the stress and pressures typically found in an entry-level workplace especially when [he was] more familiar with setting and responsibilities and minimized contact with others.” AR 510. He also wrote that Bubb was capable of respecting authority to an average level. AR 511.

         III. ...

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