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.

Pavelski v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

April 22, 2019

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.



         Plaintiff is seeking review of a final decision by defendant Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, denying her claim for disability insurance benefits under the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), and finding her capable of performing medium-level work. Dkt. #6. Plaintiff seeks remand of that decision, arguing that the administrative law judge who decided the case (1) failed to rely on any medical evidence in dismissing the state agency psychologists' findings that plaintiff had a severe mental impairment; and (2) did not adequately consider the effects of plaintiff's non-severe mental impairment and arm and hand problems in assessing plaintiff's residual functional capacity. For the reasons explained below, I conclude that the administrative law judge did not explain his findings adequately with respect to plaintiff's mental impairments and did not support the findings with substantial evidence in the record. Accordingly, I will remand the case for reconsideration of plaintiff's mental impairments and limitations. Plaintiff has not shown that the administrative law judge erred in failing to adopt more restrictive physical limitations related to her arm and hand problems.

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


         Plaintiff Patricia Pavelski contends that she became disabled on November 9, 2013 because of a variety of physical and mental conditions, including diabetes and diabetic neuropathy, depression, anxiety, hypothyroidism, fatigue, inability to concentrate and complete tasks and carpal tunnel syndrome. AR 13, 35-36. Plaintiff last worked as a part-time accountant but quit her job in November 2013 because she was no longer able to comprehend the basic skills required for the job. AR 39. She was 53 years old when she applied for benefits on January 3, 2014. AR 13, 18, 62.

         A. Relevant Medical Evidence

         1. Treatment of mental impairments

         Plaintiff has had diabetes since young adulthood and uses an insulin pump, the care and use of which is monitored by an endocrinologist, Dr. Michael Sheehan. AR 577. On November 18, 2013, plaintiff saw her primary physician, Dr. Jeffrey Jones, to discuss memory loss that she had been experiencing for the past few years. She told Dr. Jones that she suspected that her memory loss was caused by her diabetes and numerous episodes of “hypoglycemic unawareness.” AR 282. Dr. Jones referred plaintiff to Dr. Richard Hurlbut for a neuropsychological evaluation, which took place on December 4, 2013. AR 403. In his January 16, 2014 report, Dr. Hurlbut noted that plaintiff scored in the low average range in all areas of memory functioning on the Wechsler Memory Scale Fourth Edition. AR 403-04.

         On May 19, 2014, plaintiff again saw Dr. Jones for problems with her mood and memory loss. AR 472. He reviewed Dr. Hurlbut's findings and noted plaintiff's decline; he stated that she had exhibited a higher aptitude in the past and was a “high achiever.” Dr. Jones suspected that a lifetime of hypoglycemic episodes had affected plaintiff's memory and that she was experiencing depression as a result of her cognitive decline. Id. He prescribed Wellbutrin and referred plaintiff to a neurologist for a consultation. AR 474.

         On August 18, 2014, plaintiff saw neurologist Dr. Marie Tomasi. Plaintiff told Dr. Tomasi that the Wellbutrin has helped with her energy, sleep and cognitive functioning. Although plaintiff reported having had suicidal thoughts in the past, she said she no longer had them. During the examination, plaintiff struggled with recalling a few details but otherwise exhibited normal attention, concentration and fund of knowledge. Although Dr. Tomasi believed it was possible that plaintiff had a mild cognitive impairment, she noted that further testing was required to determine plaintiff's functioning level. Dr. Tomasi recommended a brain scan and further neuropsychological testing at the beginning of 2015 to compare with plaintiff's December 2013 tests. In listing plaintiff's medical conditions, Dr. Tomasi wrote that plaintiff has reactive depression as a result of the cognitive problems she had suffered in the past few years. AR 429-34.

         On December 15, 2014 and January 5, February 2 and May 4, 2015, plaintiff saw psychiatrist Dr. Jude Stenovich for anxiety and depression. AR 557-74. On each visit, Dr. Stenovich noted that plaintiff had a severe major depressive affective disorder and anxiety with intermittent suicide ideations, ongoing daytime fatigue and insomnia. In December 2014, he started tapering plaintiff's Wellbutrin, prescribed Pristiq and recommended therapy, which plaintiff started. AR 574. By February 2, 2015, Dr. Stenovich noted that plaintiff's anxiety, irritability, suicide ideations and insomnia had improved. However, her moderate depression remained unchanged. AR 563-64. In May 2015, plaintiff again reported moderate anxiety symptoms related to interpersonal conflicts. AR 558.

         2. State agency psychologist opinions

         During the initial review of plaintiff's application for benefits, Dr. David Biscardi reviewed plaintiff's medical records and concluded on April 21, 2014 that plaintiff was severely impaired by an organic mental disorder and had moderate difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence or pace. Dr. Biscardi concluded that plaintiff had the capacity to understand, remember, carry out and sustain the performance of one-to-three-step tasks, complete a normal workday, interact with co-workers and supervisors and adapt to stressors and changes associated with simple, routine competitive work activities. AR 67. On January 13, 2015, at the reconsideration level of review, Dr. Jan Jacobson reviewed the record, which included the more recent August 2014 neurology consultation, and affirmed Dr. Biscardi's findings, noting that Dr. Hurlbut's opinion was entitled to great weight “insofar as moderate limitations are opined.” AR 83-84. (Neither psychologist reviewed Dr. Stenovich's psychiatric treatment notes from late 2014 and early 2015.)

         3. Arm ...

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.