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Grube v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

May 28, 2019




         Claimant Katrina Grube seeks judicial review of a final decision of defendant Nancy A. Berryhill, the Acting Commissioner of Social Security, under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), which denied her application for supplemental security income.[1] On appeal from a finding that she was not disabled, Grube contends that Administrative Law Judge Michael Schaefer (the “ALJ”) failed to adequately account for “her long history of violence when interacting with others.” (Opening Br. (dkt. #9) 1.) For the reasons discussed below, the Commissioner's decision will be affirmed.


         Grube was born on August 1, 1985. (AR 20.) She filed an application for supplemental security income on May 21, 2013, with an alleged onset date of September 1, 1999.[3] (Id.) Her application was denied initially and on reconsideration. (Id.) On her way to graduating high school, Grube attended special education classes. (AR 58-59.) After graduation, she went to technical college, but dropped out after falling behind in her coursework due to mental health issues and surgery. (Id.)

         A. Hearing Testimony

         On May 12, 2016, Grube appeared at a video hearing in front of the ALJ. In the fall before her hearing, she testified that a temp agency had placed her with two, different employers. At the first, she assembled cell phone covers for three weeks, and at the second, she sorted potatoes for a week and a half. In both instances, she reported having “to quit because of fights” with her coworkers. (AR 61-62.)

         To be fair, Grube's actual testimony was contradictory as to the reasons for her stopping work. Initially, Grube testified that she left the first position because of an injury she received while fighting with a coworker, which necessitated time off from work to recover. Later, she reported the company asked that she not return because the coworker had filed complaints against her. On the other hand, Grube testified that the quarrel with her colleague was only a verbal argument (AR 62-63), leaving at least the role of any injury from the fight in doubt. As to the second job, Grube testified that she had to leave because of fights, but then stated that there was no “fight or disagreement with coworkers or supervisors, ” and the employer actually declined to rehire her after she missed a handful of days due to illness. (AR 61, 64.)

         Regardless, Grube acknowledged a long history of violence. While in school, Grube admitted to both fighting and injuring teachers and classmates. (AR 74 (testifying she stabbed her kindergarten teacher's hand with a pencil when the teacher tried to take away a drawing); id. (testifying she broke another teacher's arm after he put his hand on her shoulder as she was “getting into a fight with another student”); AR 75 (testifying that after breaking the teacher's arm, she also “slammed [the other student's] head into the locker and broke her nose”); id. (testifying she would beat up other students when they upset her).) Grube further testified that she was still upset by people her age who learned that she “see[s] ghosts and people think that [she is] crazy or insane or stupid.” (AR 75-76.)

         Grube's mother similarly testified that claimant “was constantly in fights, hurting people” in and out of school.” (AR 88 (testifying claimant “gets very nervous, uptight” or may “have a panic attack” around non-family members); AR 88-89 (testifying that claimant gets in fights, suffers from anxiety and “now . . . goes through spasms”); AR 91 (testifying that claimant gets violent “[i]f someone says the wrong thing or does the wrong thing”); AR 92 (testifying claimant “gets kind of violent” and throws things).) A family friend, Terry Enney, also testified that Grube got mad “unexpectedly.”[4] (AR 83.)

         Finally, Grube's mother described her history of violence with medical professionals. (AR 79 (testifying she broke one doctor's nose, another's arm, and a third's car windows when they said that her father molested her); id. (testifying she scared a doctor by telling her that the doctor's brother and mother were standing behind her advising her to be nicer).)

         B. Claimant's Prior Statements about Socialization

         Plaintiff's own statements about her desire and ability to interact with others are not entirely consistent. For example, in her adult function report from July 6, 2013, Grube reported that she may spend time with her sister and her sister's children approximately “3 times a week, ” but only when she feels like it, and that she and her older sister “don't see eye to eye.” (AR 381-82.) Grube also reported not liking to start conversations with other people or talking to others. (AR 382.) She similarly noted that her illnesses affected her ability to get along with others, and she does not “like other people.” (Id.) She added that she “get[s] mad quick, ” “can't have people sitting behind [her], ” and does not “like people that [she] do[esn't] understand.” (AR 383.) Finally, Grube reported getting particularly scared when she has to talk to others about herself. (AR 384.) Around that same time, the claimant's mother added that claimant “argues a lot with everyone” and “doesn't care to be around others.” (AR 390.)

         In contrast, Grube reported in March 2014 that she shops with her sister once or twice a week. (AR 419.) When asked if she had difficulty getting along with people, she responded “me and my mom fight a lot. But everyone else is good.” (AR 420.) However, she later volunteered that she was “really bad at getting along with other[s] because of my short temper and my outbursts. I don't like strangers. I don't feel [comfortable] around people I don't know. I don't like doing things in front of other people.” (AR 422.) When asked how she gets along with authority figures, she further responded, “no good.” (AR 421.)

         Grube's medical records from November 2014 through January 2016 also refer to her reporting a fiancé or ex-fiancé. (AR 1150, 1159, 1165, 1171, 1364, 1366.) Her January 2016 medical records reflect her complaining about her ex-fiancé's imprisonment in early 2016 and to her being “in another relationship with a man younger than herself.” (AR 1364.) Grube's medical records also indicate she took “a small vacation with her friend to take her mind off all the stress” in late May 2014 (see AR 1178), while she denied “being stressed about [family interactions at Christmas and a planned family get together]” (AR 1159). At different times, she also reported living with “friends.” (AR 432 (reported living with friends in October 2014); AR 1171 (reporting that she and her mother had had trouble finding stable housing, resulting in her being homeless for a period and staying with her mother's friends); AR 1144 (reporting that one of her friends had moved in with Grube and her mother for approximately two months).)

         C. ...

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