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Mongelluzzo v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Arizona

April 23, 2014

CAMEO DAWN MONGELLUZZO, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant

Page 915

For Cameo Dawn Mongelluzzo, Plaintiff: Mark Ross Caldwell, LEAD ATTORNEY, Caldwell & Ober PLLC, Phoenix, AZ.

For Carolyn W Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant: Kathryn Bostwick, LEAD ATTORNEY, Social Security Administration - Denver, CO, Denver, CO; Michael A Johns, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. Attorney's Office, Phoenix, AZ.

OPINION

Page 916

DECISION AND ORDER

Sharon L. Gleason, United States District Judge.

Cameo Dawn Mongelluzzo initiated this Social Security action in federal district court after exhausting administrative remedies. The matter has been fully briefed by the parties.[1] Ms. Mongelluzzo requested oral argument; [2] however, oral argument was not necessary to the Court's resolution of the issues raised by Ms. Mongelluzzo. For the reasons set forth below, this matter will be reversed and remanded to the Commissioner of Social Security for the calculation and award of benefits, and the oral argument that was previously scheduled will be vacated.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Ms. Mongelluzzo is 40 years old and is a high school graduate.[3] At different times between May 2002 and May 2009, she worked as a pizza delivery person, a grocery store clerk, a janitor, and an assistant at a charter school.[4] From May 2009 to January 2010, she worked as a teacher at a daycare.[5] Shortly thereafter, in the spring of 2010, she enrolled full time at Paradise Valley Community College.[6] For each of the spring and fall semesters in 2010 and 2011, Ms. Mongelluzzo took 10 or 12 credit-hours of classes.[7] As of December 2011, she had earned approximately 50 of the 65 credits needed for an associate degree in fine arts.[8] She hopes to become a photographer.[9]

Ms. Mongelluzzo suffers from certain mental impairments, which are the focus of this appeal.[10] The record reflects that Ms. Mongelluzzo has a history of childhood abuse,[11] and around 2004, she attempted suicide on two different occasions.[12] Ms. Mongelluzzo has sought treatment for her mental impairments, but symptoms persist even with medication.

I. Ms. Mongelluzzo's Application for Supplemental Security Income.

On April 9, 2010, Ms. Mongelluzzo filed an application for Supplemental Security

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Income (" SSI" )[13] with the State of Arizona Disability Determination Services (" DDS" ) based on a disability beginning that same day.[14] She listed several impairments that limit her ability to work, including the following mental impairments: depression, dissociative identity disorder, anxiety disorder, borderline personality disorder, post traumatic stress disorder (" PTSD" ), and seriously mentally ill diagnosis.[15] Both Ms. Mongelluzzo and her husband submitted function reports in support of Ms. Mongelluzzo's application.[16]

On August 12, 2010, DDS denied Ms. Mongelluzzo's application for SSI.[17] The following month, Ms. Mongelluzzo filed a request for reconsideration,[18] which was denied on November 8, 2010.[19] On January 18, 2011, Ms. Mongelluzzo requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (" ALJ" ).[20] Ms. Mongelluzzo's hearing took place on December 15, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona before ALJ Earl C. Cates, Jr.[21]

II. The Administrative Record.

The administrative record before the ALJ reflects the following:

A. Ms. Mongelluzzo's Mental Health Treatment Records (2006-2011).

In November 2006, Ms. Mongelluzzo began receiving treatment through Arizona's mental health care system, variously called Value Options, Magellan, or Southwest Network.[22] She met with a doctor on at least 10 occasions from 2006 through 2008.[23] Ms. Mongelluzzo's September 24, 2007 " At Risk Crisis Plan" indicates that she suffers from PTSD and dissociative identity disorder, with symptoms including " startle response, avoidance, triggers and flashbacks, depression and dissociative episodes[,] anxiety and blackouts." [24] However, the records from 2006 to 2008 also reflect that Ms. Mongelluzzo's mental condition generally was stable.[25] On several visits, she was given a Global Assessment Functioning (" GAF" ) score, which was always between 60 and 70.[26]

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On March 13, 2009, Ms. Mongelluzzo met with Dr. Stolzberg, whose notes indicate that Mr. Mongelluzzo is " doing well" and " able to manage work - school - family." [27] Dr. Stolzberg gave Ms. Mongelluzzo a GAF score of 80.[28]

On June 3, 2009, Ms. Mongelluzzo had her first appointment with Dr. Jehangir Bastani.[29] Dr. Bastani's notes from that visit indicate the severity Ms. Mongelluzzo's symptoms was " normal." [30] However, when Ms. Mongelluzzo met with Dr. Bastani on August 6, 2009, Ms. Mongelluzzo's mental condition had worsened considerably. Dr. Bastani's notes indicate that Ms. Mongelluzzo " disintegrated after the early part of the interview." [31] She " abruptly stopped, got drowsy and spoke in a soft voice: not feeling good." [32] Her head slumped to the left side, her speech became slurred, and Dr. Bastani observed the " emergence of [her] alternate personality." [33] Dr. Bastani characterized the severity of Ms. Mongelluzo's symptoms as " severe," and he gave her a GAF score of 30.[34] But two weeks later, on August 19, 2009, Dr. Bastani observed a " change for the better" in Ms. Mongelluzzo's condition and characterized the severity of her symptoms as " mild." [35]

From October 2009 through April 2011, Ms. Mongelluzzo met with Dr. Bastani on at least 12 occasions.[36] Dr. Bastani generally characterized the severity of Ms. Mongelluzzo's symptoms as either " mild" or " moderate," and he consistently assessed a GAF score of 50 or 52.[37] Dr. Bastani's notes from September 22, 2010 state that Ms. Mongelluzzo " still is highly stressed" and " not capable of working full time over a period of time." [38] And his notes from April 20, 2011--the last patient visit between Ms. Mongelluzzo and Dr. Bastani that is documented in the record--indicate that Ms. Mongelluzzo suffered from ongoing

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nightmares, was paranoid and delusional, and was stressed by her college classes.[39]

On August 1, 2011, Ms. Mongelluzzo met with Dr. Jon Allison, whose notes state that Ms. Mongelluzzo's " psychiatric symptoms are controlled at the present time." [40] But on October 27, 2011--the last mental health check-up documented in the record--Dr. Beth Wadman observed that Ms. Mongelluzzo " seems to be dissociated several times during the Interview." [41] Dr. Wadman also noted that Ms. Mongelluzzo was " very worried that she will have an episode of memory loss that she has had in the past." [42] ...


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