United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
OPINION AND ORDER
D. PETERSON District Judge.
Adam James Recha seeks judicial review of a final decision of
defendant Andrew Saul, Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration, finding him not disabled under the Social
Security Act. He contends that administrative law judge (ALJ)
Lawrence E. Blatnik erred in (1) assigning weight to two
sources' opinions regarding Recha's capabilities; and
(2) improperly accounting for Recha's mental limitations
in determining his residual functional capacity (RFC). The
case is scheduled for oral argument on January 6, 2020, but
oral argument is unnecessary. Because neither of Recha's
arguments warrants remand, the court will affirm the
was injured in a car accident on November 24, 2014, hitting
his head on his car's windshield. R. 13 and R.
After receiving initial treatment for his injuries, he was
voluntarily hospitalized a few weeks later, reporting that he
was hearing voices telling him to harm himself and
others. He was discharged to outpatient care a few
days after his admission with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, a
cognitive disorder due to his head injury, and cluster A
personality traits. R. 387. He took psychiatric medications
and participated in therapy to manage his symptoms. R. 1020.
filed an application for disability insurance benefits on
January 27, 2015, alleging that he had been disabled since
September 28, 2014. The ALJ held a hearing on November 16,
2017, after which the agency arranged for Recha to be
examined by a consulting psychologist, Brenda Reed. After
receiving Reed's report, the ALJ determined that Recha
had severe impairments of schizophrenia, depression,
attention deficit disorder, personality disorder, and a
history of traumatic brain injury. R. 13. He concluded that
Recha had the RFC to perform a full range of work at all
exertional levels so long as he was restricted to
“simple, routine, repetitive tasks” with
“only brief, superficial contact with supervisors or
the public” and that he could “tolerate simple
changes in routine, avoid hazards, travel independently and
make and carry out simple plans.” R. 15. Based on this
RFC, the ALJ denied Recha's application for benefits,
concluding that he could perform his past relevant work as a
store laborer, R. 17.
as the ALJ's decision applies the correct legal standards
and is supported by substantial evidence in the record, the
court must uphold it. Campbell v. Astrue, 627 F.3d
299, 306 (7th Cir. 2010).
Weight given to source opinions
challenges the weight given by the ALJ to the opinions of
Lisa Fitzpatrick, a state agency psychologist, and Randall
Ahrens, Recha's therapist.
contends that the ALJ erred in assigning great weight to the
opinion of Lisa Fitzpatrick, the state agency consultant who
reviewed Recha's medical record in November 2015.
(Actually, the ALJ gave only significant weight, not great
weight, to Fitzpatrick's opinion. This is but one of
several inaccuracies in Recha's brief; this one is not
material to the court's analysis.) Fitzpatrick noted that
in January 2015, Recha had responded well to medication and
“did not show any signs of active psychosis.” R.
78-79. Recha says that Fitzpatrick's opinion is outdated.
An ALJ cannot rely on a medical reviewer's opinion if
later medical evidence could reasonably have changed the
reviewer's mind. Moreno v. Berryhill, 882 F.3d
722, 728 (7th Cir. 2018).
brief, Recha summarizes evidence from 2016 and 2017 in which
he reported waxing and waning auditory and visual
hallucinations. Fitzpatrick was aware in November 2015 that
Recha had alleged worsening mental impairment. But
Fitzpatrick reviewed records from Recha's mental health
treatment providers from throughout 2015, and yet she
concluded that Recha was not disabled. Fitzpatrick was well
aware of Recha's hallucinations: shortly after the car
accident, Recha reported what he called hallucinations, which
he said actually began before the accident. Recha hasn't
shown that his reports of hallucinations in 2016 and 2017
would have changed Fitzpatrick's conclusions. The mere
fact that Recha's medical record continued to grow after
Fitzpatrick's evaluation does not warrant remand.
Keys v. Berryhill, 679 Fed.Appx. 477, 481 (7th Cir.
2017) (“If an ALJ were required to update the record
any time a claimant continued to receive treatment, a case
might never end.”) (citing Scheck v. Barnhart,
357 F.3d 697, 702 (7th Cir. 2004)). Recha simply cites
continuing treatment; he does not show that Fitzpatrick's
opinion is entitled to less weight than the ALJ assigned it.
says that the ALJ failed to assess the opinion of Randall
Ahrens, Recha's therapist, using the factors required by
the agency. The ALJ gave lesser weight to Ahrens's
restrictions than to those of agency consultants Fitzpatrick
and Reed because he found Ahrens's restrictions
inconsistent with and unsupported by Ahrens's treatment
records and other medical-record evidence. R. 16. (In his
briefing, Recha repeatedly refers to the psychological
opinion of Sandra ...