United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
OPINION AND ORDER
BARBARA B. CRABB DISTRICT JUDGE.
Amy Marchel is seeking review of a final decision denying her
claim for disability insurance benefits under the Social
Security Act. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Plaintiff contends
that she has been disabled since 1991 because of numerous
impairments, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder
and a learning disability. The administrative law judge
concluded that even though plaintiff has several severe and
non-severe impairments, she is not disabled because she can
perform medium exertional work with limitations. As explained
below, I agree with plaintiff that the administrative law
judge did not give an adequate explanation for discounting
the opinion of plaintiff's treating psychiatrist and
failed to conduct a proper credibility analysis. However, I
must deny plaintiff's request to award benefits outright.
Although I am loathe to extend this litigation further, there
are factual issues that must be addressed by an the Social
Security Administration. Therefore, I am remanding this case
for further proceedings. Allord v. Astrue, 631 F.3d
411, 418 (7th Cir. 2011) (social security case must be
remanded for further proceedings if factual issues remain
following facts are drawn from the administrative record (AR)
and supplemental administrative record (Suppl. AR).
Social Security Applications and Background
Amy Marchel was born on March 7, 1973. She first filed for
disability insurance and supplemental security benefits in
November 2005, contending that she had been disabled since
March 1, 1991 because of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic
stress disorder and a learning disability. AR 770. Her
application was denied initially and on reconsideration in
2006, and she requested a hearing before an administrative
law judge. A hearing was held on February 10, 2009, with an
unfavorable decision issued on May 5, 2009. AR 770. Plaintiff
appealed to the Appeals Council in March 2010, which denied
review in December 2010. She then filed suit in this court in
plaintiff filed a second application, in June 2009, alleging
disability as a result of depression, anxiety, bipolar
disorder and a learning disability. That application was
denied upon initial review in September 2009 and upon
reconsideration in February 2010. A hearing on
plaintiff's second application was held in May 2011 and a
second unfavorable decision was issued the following month.
AR 14-27. Plaintiff appealed that decision to the Appeals
Council in July 2011 and the Appeals Council again denied
review. AR 1. Plaintiff filed a lawsuit in this court in 2012
challenging the decision with respect to her second
later filed a third application for disability benefits,
alleging disability as a result of depression, anxiety,
bipolar disorder, a learning disability and asthma. The third
application was denied upon initial review in April 2012 and
upon reconsideration in May 2013.
November 2012 and February 2013, I reversed the
administration's decisions denying benefits and remanded
plaintiff's claims to the commissioner for further
administrative proceedings. AR 632-40. In August 2013, the
Appeals Council directed the administrative law judge to
consolidate all of plaintiff's claim files, make one
record and issue a new decision on the consolidated claims,
based on the applications filed on November 29, 2005. AR 648.
January 12, 2015, a hearing was held before Administrative
Law Judge Thomas Springer in Wausau, Wisconsin, at which
plaintiff was present and represented by counsel. AR 580-628.
On February 24, 2015, the administrative law judge concluded
that plaintiff was not disabled. AR 767-788. The Appeals
Council denied plaintiff's request for review, making the
hearing decision the final decision of the commissioner.
Overview of Medical Problems and Treatment
has a history of depression, with treatment records dating
back to 2001. In December 2004, she was hospitalized for
three days for depression and suicidal thoughts. Suppl. AR
267. Her diagnosis was “major depression, recurrent
moderate to severe” and “posttraumatic stress
disorder chronic with continued symptoms.” Suppl. AR
267. She was hospitalized again between May 2 and May 5, 2006
for major depression and generalized anxiety disorder with
panic attacks. Suppl. AR at 307. From 2005 through 2008, she
received mental health services through Portage County Health
and Human Services, Suppl. AR at 364-370, 304, 382-95,
402-22, as well as therapy sessions at Children's Service
Society of Wisconsin during this time. Suppl. AR at 297-303,
518-21. From February 2007 to November 2008, plaintiff had
more than 30 visits to a doctor or to other care providers at
Portage County. AR 477-522, 461-465. At various appointments,
she was given a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, depression and
generalized anxiety disorder. Suppl. AR at473; AR 1122.
had an eight-session psychological evaluation in 2006,
ordered by the court as a condition for returning her
children to her care. Suppl. AR 453-55. The evaluator found
that plaintiff met the criteria for major depressive disorder
and borderline personality disorder. Suppl. AR at 455. On the
Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-3, she had a verbal IQ of
70, a performance IQ of 100 and a full IQ of 91. Suppl. AR at
454. The evaluator found her skill level in all three areas
well below average and her skills significantly deficient.
Id. The Minnesota Multiphase Personality Inventory-2
profile showed that plaintiff was experiencing a significant
level of depression and anger, difficulty with trust,
feelings of insecurity and at high risk for abusing alcohol
or drugs. Id. However, the evaluator also stated
that plaintiff's profile showed an “unusual number
of psychological symptoms” and might be “invalid,
” either because of plaintiff's poor reading
ability, confusion, disorientation, stress, exaggeration or
malingering. Suppl. AR 425.
August 25, 2008, plaintiff saw Barbara Schira, APN-P, BC at
Portage County Health and Human Services. AR 466-67.
Plaintiff told Schira that she was feeling overwhelmed by the
amount of hours she was working at Goodwill Industries and
that she wanted to work only 20 hours because she had family
and other obligations and because she was concerned that she
would end up back in the hospital if she worked more. Schira
found plaintiff in a good mood but “overwhelmed with
working too much and anxious.” Id. She
restricted plaintiff to 20 hours of work a week. Id.
Plaintiff continued receiving treatment for depression and
mental health problems throughout 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012,
with periodic appointments to check and adjust her
medications. At some appointments, plaintiff reported doing
well, while at others, she reported having racing thoughts
and feeling depressed and suicidal. AR 564-57, 1356, 1515-30.
2012, plaintiff saw Dr. Maureen Leahy, a psychiatrist with
Portage County, for several appointments. In early 2012,
plaintiff reported feeling depressed, having racing thoughts
and trouble sleeping and managing her medication. AR 1516-18.
In April 2012, Dr. Leahy noted that plaintiff could not
afford her medications. AR 1522. Leahy made several
adjustments to plaintiff's medications throughout 2012.
In April 2012, Leahy called plaintiff's employer to state
that plaintiff could not work more than 15 hour a week.
Id. In May 2012, Leahy noted that plaintiff was
“finally stabilizing after a prolonged hypomanic
episode, ” with sleep, appetite and energy all within
normal limits. AR 1524. However, in June 2012, plaintiff was
again having racing thoughts and difficulty sleeping. AR
1525. Her troubles continued into July 2012, when she
reported going days without sleeping at all. AR 1526. In
October and November 2012, plaintiff had appointments with
Dr. Leahy at which she reported having racing thoughts,
trouble sleeping, panic attacks, difficulty concentrating and
trouble with her medication. AR 1529-30.
November 2012, plaintiff was hospitalized for several days
after threatening to stab herself with a knife. AR 1370.
After she was released, she felt better, but still had racing
thoughts and depression. AR 1402. Later in November 2012, Dr.
Leahy noted that plaintiff was experiencing fluctuating
moods, from severe depression to agitation, racing thoughts
and hypomania. AR 1531. Leahy also noted that plaintiff could
not afford a sleep medication that had been helping her, and
that plaintiff “continue[d] to minimize her
symptoms.” Id. Plaintiff reported feeling
better during an appointment in December 2012, but shortly
thereafter was struggling again with racing thoughts and
concentration. AR 1533-38. Dr. Leahy recommended that
plaintiff try lithium, but plaintiff was afraid to do so. AR
January and April 2013, plaintiff had trouble with racing
thoughts and anxiety, despite being on two antipsychotic
medications and a mood stabilizer. AR 1541-42. Her mood
improved in late 2013, and she remained stable throughout
much of 2014. However, in August 2014, plaintiff was again
admitted to the hospital because of suicidal thoughts,
reporting that she had been depressed and contemplating
suicide for the last ...