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Green v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

May 20, 2019

TROY GREEN, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Barbara B. Crabb, District Judge.

         Plaintiff Troy Green is seeking review of a final decision denying his claim for disability insurance benefits under the Social Security Act. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Plaintiff contends that he has been disabled since March 2013 because of a combination of physical and mental impairments. An administrative law judge concluded that even though plaintiff has severe impairments, he is not disabled because he can perform a reduced range of light work for which there are a significant number of jobs in the national economy. Plaintiff contends that the administrative law judge erred by not admitting into evidence an opinion from plaintiff's treating physician, failing to give proper weight to the opinions of plaintiff's treating physician that were in the record and failing to account for plaintiff's mental impairments in assessing his residual functional capacity. For the reasons explained below, I am not persuaded by plaintiff's arguments. Therefore, I will affirm the acting commissioner's decision.

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

         FACTS

         A. Social Security Application and Background

         Plaintiff Troy Green was born in 1975. He filed for disability insurance benefits in June 2014, contending that he was disabled by depression, anxiety, non-epileptic seizures and dyslexia. AR 178, 203. His application was denied initially and on reconsideration, and plaintiff requested a hearing before an administrative law judge . AR 76, 110, 125. After the hearing, the administrative law judge issued a written decision concluding that plaintiff was not disabled. AR 16. In May 2018, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review. AR 1.

         B. Medical Treatment for Mental Health

         Because plaintiff's appeal relates only to limitations caused by his mental impairments, I will not discuss records relating to his physical impairments.

         Plaintiff has a history of depression, anxiety and non-epileptic seizures. In March 2013, plaintiff was hospitalized for a seizure and was treated with an anti-seizure medication. AR 304-05. His condition improved within a few days and at follow up appointments, he reported no further seizures. AR 309-17. Laboratory imaging studies and physical examinations at the hospital were generally normal. Id.

         In July 2014, plaintiff saw a family practice physician with complaints of worsening depression. AR 350. He reported that he was involved in a custody dispute, was taking care of his children and was crying a lot. Id. The doctor increased his Zoloft. Id. A few days later, plaintiff saw Dr. Jeffrey Eichten, another family practice physician, with complaints of seizure activity, stress, anxiety and chronic pain. AR 347. Plaintiff told Dr. Eichten that he had had a seizure in family court after the judge told him he could lose his parental rights. He was taken to the hospital, where he reported that he had been skipping some of his medications and a toxicology screen was positive for four drugs that he had not been prescribed. AR 411-21. Plaintiff requested that Dr. Eichten prescribe narcotics and benzodiazepines, but Eichten declined because plaintiff has a history of polysubstance abuse. AR 348. Eichten increased plaintiff's gabapentin and anti-anxiety medications. Id.

         Between June and August 2014, plaintiff had five sessions of mental health counseling. AR 387-395. His counseling sessions addressed life stressors, including his relationships, parenting, moving in with his brother and drinking. Id. Plaintiff also saw a neurologist in July 2014 for pseudoseizures. AR 401-03. The neurologist told plaintiff that because his seizures were unrelated to epilepsy, the doctor could not treat the condition and that plaintiff needed cognitive behavioral therapy or other mental health therapy. Id. Plaintiff was taken off anti-seizure medication.

         Also in July 2014, plaintiff had a consultative examination with Travis Hinze, PhD. AR 494-498. Hinze noted that plaintiff appeared to be “mildly-to-moderately depressed, ” with mildly slow mental activity and a borderline “fund of knowledge.” Id. Hinze diagnosed a major depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, stimulant use disorder in remission, cannabis use disorder and suspected borderline intellectual functioning. Hinze concluded that plaintiff had moderate impairments in several areas of mental functioning. AR 498.

         In August 2014, plaintiff was admitted to a hospital for depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. AR 453. He reported that his living situation was stressful and that he had been drinking up to a 12-pack of beer a day and smoking marijuana every day that he could afford it. AR 453-57. He was prescribed bupropion and was discharged after two days of being in a stable condition. AR 451. Plaintiff saw Dr. Eichten a week later for a follow up appointment and continued to report anxiety and depression. AR 469.

         Plaintiff saw Eichten again for depression, anxiety and hip pain in September and October 2014. AR 472, 76-77. He asked Dr. Eichten to write a letter stating he was psychologically stable and able to care for his children. Eichten wrote the letter, as well as another letter stating that plaintiff could not work because of physical pain. AR 476-77. At a December 2014 appointment, plaintiff reported that his mental health was stable with ...


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