Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Zay v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

April 10, 2019

SARAH P. ZAY, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


          BARBARA B. CRABB District Judge

         Plaintiff Sarah P. Zay 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 March 3, 2011 because of narcolepsy, anxiety disorder and panic disorder. An administrative law judge concluded that even though plaintiff has severe impairments, she is not disabled because she can perform full-time work at all exertional levels, with some restrictions. The Appeals Council accepted review and also concluded that plaintiff is not disabled. As explained below, I agree with plaintiff that the commissioner did not give an adequate explanation in her decision for discounting the medical opinions in the record. Therefore, I will reverse the commissioner's decision and remand this case for further proceedings.

         The following facts are drawn from the administrative record (AR).


         A. Social Security Application and Background

         Plaintiff Sarah Zay was born in 1983. She filed for disability insurance benefits in November 2012, contending that she was disabled by anxiety, panic attacks and narcolepsy. AR 24, 218-24. Her application was denied initially and on reconsideration. AR 136-44, 146-54. Plaintiff requested a hearing, and appeared without representation at a hearing before an administrative law judge in March 2016. AR 78-105. In November 2016, plaintiff testified at a supplemental hearing in front of a different administrative law judge and with the assistance of counsel. AR 42-75. A medical expert and vocational expert also testified at the second hearing. The administrative law judge issued a written decision in December 2016, concluding that plaintiff was not disabled. AR 24-36. In January 2017, plaintiff sought review of the administrative law judge's decision from the Appeals Council, AR 209, and in March 2018, the appeals council granted review. AR 210-17.

         In May 2018, the Appeals Council issued an unfavorable decision. AR 1-6. The Appeals Council amended the date that plaintiff was last insured to September 2021, but adopted many of the administrative law judge's findings regarding whether plaintiff was disabled.

         B. Overview of Medical Problems and Treatment

         Since 2011, plaintiff has reported symptoms of anxiety, depression and narcolepsy and has been treated with various medications for those impairments, including Klonopin, Adderall, Trazadone and Ativan. In March 2011, a psychologist gave plaintiff a diagnosis of social anxiety and narcolepsy and assessed her global assessment of functioning score as 70. AR 316. At follow up appointments that same year, she seemed engaged during the visit and reported that she was doing well. She was working two jobs and had a vacation planned for Cancun. (It is not clear from the record whether plaintiff went on the vacation.) By July 2011, however plaintiff reported that her anxiety had increased and was making it difficult for her to engage in daily activities. She also reported that she had recently had a panic attack, and stated that she had had 10 panic attacks in her life. AR 368. In October 2011, plaintiff reported that she was working more than 32 hours a week at a nursing home, but that her exhaustion was making her frustrated and that she was considering applying for disability benefits. AR 366. By November 2011, she reported that she was having daily panic attacks before going to work and before any medical appointment. AR 363.

         Throughout 2012, plaintiff continued to report difficulty sleeping, anxiety and panic attacks. In March 2012, she reported that her panic attacks were worsening and that she had difficulty leaving the house and answering her phone or door. AR 361. She quit her job because it was too stressful for her. Id. In April 2012, she reported that her panic attacks were difficult to control and that her medications were not helping. AR 359. Her doctor recommended on several occasions that plaintiff meet with a psychiatrist regarding her anxiety, but she responded that contacting psychiatry was too stressful for her. AR 351, 357, 361. Plaintiff continued to seek treatment for her anxiety, panic attacks and sleep difficulties from her primary care provider in 2013. Her symptoms were generally the same as they were during 2012, and she experienced severe anxiety with social interactions and car rides. AR 344.

         In June 2014, plaintiff participated in a consultative examination with Charles Moore, a psychologist. AR 415-21. Moore noted that plaintiff was cooperative and made fair eye contact, but her mood and affect were anxious. Moore gave plaintiff a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder, AR 420, and concluded that plaintiff would have problems understanding, remembering and carrying out even simple instructions, would not be able to respond satisfactorily in a basic social context and would be “less able” to withstand routine stressors. AR 421.

         In August 2015, plaintiff was still working part-time for home health care and reported that her narcolepsy was well-controlled, but that she had problems with anxiety. AR 434. She still had not made an appointment with psychiatry for her anxiety. Id.

         In 2016, plaintiff participated in a second consultative examination with Rebecca Angle, a psychologist. AR 450. She was anxious at the appointment and cried through most of it. AR 451. She reported having frequent panic attacks, especially when she had to drive or ride in a car. AR 450. Angle gave plaintiff a diagnosis of unspecified anxiety disorder. AR 454. As for plaintiff's ability to work, Angle concluded that plaintiff had the ability to understand, remember and carry out simply instructions, but would be significantly limited in her ability to get along with supervisors and coworkers, manage day-to-day work stress and maintain her concentration and work pace. Id.

         Plaintiff's medical progress notes from 2016 show that plaintiff continued to report symptoms from anxiety and narcolepsy and continued to take Klonopin and Adderall, in addition to other medications. AR 461-42, 475. She also reported suffering panic attacks multiple times a day. AR 475. She continued to refuse to make appointments with behavioral health specialists because she thought making appointments with a new provider was too stressful. Id.

         C. Administr ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.