United States District Court, D. Arizona
Honorable Bruce G. Macdonald, United States Magistrate Judge.
pending before the Court is Plaintiff’s Opening Brief
(Doc. 18). Defendant filed his Brief (“Response”)
(Doc. 22), and Plaintiff filed his Reply (Doc. 23). Plaintiff
brings this cause of action for review of the final decision
of the Commissioner for Social Security pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). The United States Magistrate Judge has
received the written consent of both parties, and presides
over this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Rule
73, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
March 28, 2014, Plaintiff protectively filed a Title II
application for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) and on January 23, 2015 filed a Title XVI
application for Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”), with both applications alleging
disability as of January 25, 2009 due to bipolar disorder,
agoraphobia, anxiety and panic disorder, and Hidradenitis
suppurativa. See Administrative Record
(“AR”) at 27–29, 56, 115–16,
123–24, 136–37, 215, 222, 245, 249, 277, 280,
307. The Social Security Administration (“SSA”)
denied this application on September 9, 2014. Id. at
27, 114–20, 149–51. On January 23, 2015,
Plaintiff filed a request for reconsideration, and on April
24, 2015, SSA denied Plaintiff’s application upon
reconsideration. Id. at 27, 121–57. On June
16, 2015, Plaintiff filed his request for hearing.
Id. at 27, 160–61. On May 15, 2017, a hearing
was held before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
Lori L. Freund. Id. at 27, 52–113. On August
17, 2017, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. AR at
24–45. On October 5, 2017, Plaintiff requested review
of the ALJ’s decision by the Appeals Council, and on
June 7, 2018, review was denied. Id. at 1–3,
214. On July 26, 2018, Plaintiff filed this cause of action.
Compl. (Doc. 1).
was forty-three (43) years old at the time of the
administrative hearing and thirty-five (35) at the time of
the alleged onset of his disability. AR at 27, 43, 52, 114,
121, 123, 136, 215, 222, 245, 277, 307. Plaintiff obtained a
high school diploma. Id. at 43, 114, 121, 250. Prior
to his alleged disability, Plaintiff worked as a department
manager at Costco. Id. at 91–93, 250,
administrative hearing, Plaintiff testified that in 2009 he
left work at Costco Wholesale and went on Short-Term
Disability. AR at 72–73. Plaintiff was on Short-Term
Disability for six (6) months and treated by his primary care
physician, Dr. Stanley Ling. Id. at 73. Plaintiff
testified that he was subsequently approved for a twelve (12)
month term of Long-Term Disability. Id. Plaintiff
further testified that his Long-Term Disability ended in June
2010. Id. at 75. Plaintiff also testified that his
medical insurance ended at that time and he did not apply for
State assistance. Id. Plaintiff testified that
although he was seen by Jim Harden, a mental health
counselor, for approximately two (2) years, he was unable to
obtain records from that time. AR at 76–77. Plaintiff
estimated that he ceased seeing Mr. Harden in April 2012.
Id. at 78.
testified that his drinking became a problem in December
2013. Id. Plaintiff estimated that he was drinking
somewhere between seven (7) and twelve (12) or thirteen (13)
shots of alcohol per day. Id. at 79. Plaintiff
further testified that he went into treatment in December
2014. Id. Plaintiff noted that he sought treatment
because he realized that his drinking had become a
progressive problem that would not improve. AR at
79–80. Plaintiff also indicated that his wife at the
time was a heavy drinker. Id. at 80.
testified that he stopped therapy in September 2015 because
he was uninsured and reliant on his parents for housing.
Id. at 81. Plaintiff further testified that shortly
thereafter he applied state benefits. Id. at 82.
Plaintiff also testified that at the time of the hearing he
was receiving food and medical assistance. Id. at
82. Plaintiff testified that he did not have a good reason
for not seeking treatment beyond difficulty leaving the house
or motivating to make a telephone call. AR at 82–83.
Plaintiff indicated that these issues have grown
progressively worse since 2009. Id. at 83. Plaintiff
described attempting to reengage with the world by going
grocery shopping, but at times has to leave his shopping cart
at the store and just leave because he cannot be around
people. Id. at 83–84. Plaintiff testified that
he is taking an anti-anxiety medication and has an albuterol
rescue inhaler. Id. at 84–85. Plaintiff
further testified that he had been prescribed antibiotics to
help with the Hidradenitis suppurativa, but the course had
been completed at the time of the hearing. Id. at
testified that his Hidradenitis suppurativa causes
“incredible pain” and “fuel[s] the
depression and anxiety” which has resulted in his
inability to work. AR at 87. Plaintiff further testified that
he has had Hidradenitis suppurativa since he was 13.
Id. Plaintiff also testified that the condition has
worsened with more frequent outbreaks, larger cysts, and
cysts in new places. Id. at 87–88, 91.
Plaintiff explained that he managed the condition while
working by bringing multiple changes of clothes each day and
taking breaks to clean up and change outfits. Id. at
92–94. Plaintiff described the cysts as large, painful,
and filled with blood and pus. Id. at 91. Plaintiff
explained that aside from antibiotics, Hidradenitis
suppurativa treatment includes hot baths or hot compresses.
AR at 92. Plaintiff testified that ultimately, he went on
disability due to anxiety. Id. at 88–89.
Petitioner opined that he believes that his anxiety is
exacerbated by the Hidradenitis suppurativa. Id. at
further testified that because of the combination of
depression, anxiety, and pain, he does not socialize beyond
his parents and sister. Id. at 94–95.
Plaintiff also testified that he had recently had a seizure
while driving, but had not yet seen the neurologist for
treatment beyond the emergency department. Id. at
95–98. Plaintiff indicated that he is no longer driving
as a result of this episode. AR at 98.
February 11, 2015, Plaintiff completed a Function
Report-Adult in this matter. AR 296–303. Plaintiff
reported that he lived in a house with his parents.
Id. at 296. Plaintiff described his medical
conditions as follows:
Extreem [sic] depression, anxiety (panic-attacks), fear of
leaving the house. Cannot focus enough to complete minimal
tasks around the house. Cannot cope with “surprise or
last minute” life situations. Fear of phone calls,
doorbell/knock and mail because it might be bad news.
I’m easily iratated[sic]/agitated by small things in
life that do not bother others.
Id. Plaintiff reported that on good days he tries to
help around the house with dishes and laundry, but on most
days he isolates himself and tries to read or watch
television. Id. at 297. Plaintiff further reported
attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings daily. Id.
at 297, 300. Plaintiff also reported that he cares for his
son and sometimes feeds his parents’ dog. AR at 297.
indicated that prior to his illness he was able to focus and
complete tasks, including managing up to eighty (80) people,
run a business, and be in public without panic attacks or
fear. Id. Plaintiff reported that now his sleep is
irregular, both in ability to go to sleep and its duration.
Id. Plaintiff indicated a lack of motivation
regarding his personal hygiene, but is capable to attending
to all personal care tasks. Id. Plaintiff reported
that his parents remind him to take his medication.
Id. at 298. Plaintiff further reported that he can
prepare simple meals, such as sandwiches and frozen foods. AR
at 298. Plaintiff noted that prior to the onset of his
condition, he would cook large, complicated meals, but now he
cannot focus. Id. Plaintiff also reported that he
does his own laundry, does the dishes, and occasionally mows
the lawn. Id. Plaintiff indicated that he performs
these tasks once or twice per week, and occasionally needs
noted that he goes outside to smoke daily. Id. at
299. Plaintiff further reported that if he goes out for other
reasons he walks or rides in a car, but does not drive. AR at
299. Plaintiff also reported that he shops for food two (2)
or three (3) times per month, but tries to hurry through the
store. Id. Plaintiff prefers to have someone with
him when he goes out. Id. Plaintiff reported that he
can count change, but cannot pay bills and does not have a
checking or savings account. Id. Plaintiff noted
that since his condition arose, he was spending money
indicated his hobbies include playing guitar, reading,
watching television, and playing ball with his sons. AR at
300. Plaintiff reported that he does not do these things
often due to a lack of desire or motivation. Id.
Plaintiff further reported interacting with his parents and
sons and occasional telephone calls. Id. Plaintiff
attends church in addition to AA meetings. Id.
Plaintiff also reported that he mostly does not want to talk
to anyone and is irritable and angry. Id. at 301.
Plaintiff reported that his conditions affect his ability to
lift, reach, walk, remember, complete tasks, concentrate,
understand, follow instructions, and get along with others.
AR at 301. Plaintiff described his walking as limited by his
Hidradenitis suppurativa, noting that when it flares he can
only walk a few feet at a time before requiring a few seconds
to a few minutes of rest before continuing. Id.
Plaintiff further reported being able to pay attention for a
minute or two, but does okay with spoken instruction, while
needing to re-check written instructions. Id.
reported having no trust in the police or court system.
Id. at 302. Plaintiff also reported that he has
never been fired from a job because he cannot get along with
people. Id. Plaintiff indicated that he has
difficulty with stress and changes in routine. AR at 302.
Plaintiff noted that he wears glasses. Id. Plaintiff
listed medications included quetiapine, sertraline, and
lamotrigine. Id. at 303. Plaintiff ...