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Irwin v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division

December 2, 2016

ANDREW J. IRWIN, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


          Dustin B. Pead United States District Judge.

         The parties stipulated to this Court's jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 636(c). (ECF No. 15). Plaintiff, Andrew J. Irwin, (“Mr. Irwin”) appeals the Commissioner of Social Security's decision denying his claim for Disability Insurance Benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act (the Act), 42 U.S.C.§§401-433, as well as, Supplemental Security Income, 42 U.S.C. §§1381-1383f. (ECF No. 3). Having considered the parties' briefs, the administrative record, the arguments of counsel, and the relevant law, the Court REVERSES and REMANDS the Commissioner's decision for further consideration.


         Mr. Irwin filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”), as well as, Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) on June 24, 2013, alleging disability beginning September 10, 2012. (Tr. 196-197). Mr. Irwin's claim was initially denied on September 30, 2013, and upon reconsideration on February 13, 2014. (Tr. 85, 86, 87, 88). Thereafter, Mr. Irwin timely requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on February 19, 2014. (Tr. 137-138).

         A hearing was held on March 20, 2015 before Administrative Law Judge Norman Bennett. (Tr. 37-58). The ALJ issued a decision finding Mr. Irwin not disabled on June 9, 2015. (Tr. 139-165). The Appeal Council denied Mr. Irwin's request for review on September 25, 2015. (Tr. 1-5). Mr. Irwin brought this action to appeal the Commissioner's decision pursuant to 24 U.S.C. § 405(g), which provides for judicial review of the defendant's final decision.

         A. Factual History

         Mr. Irwin is disabled due to physical and mental impairments. Mr. Irwin alleged chronic pain due to osteoarthritis in his back, hands, and feet. (Tr. 398). Mr. Irwin initially saw Dr. Ryan Hanson, M.D., who found his pain was “most likely arthritis.” (Tr. 398). Mr. Irwin first met with Adan Pearson, PA-C, in 2013. Mr. Pearson who diagnosed Mr. Irwin with generalized osteoarthritis, bipolar disorder, and COPD. (Tr. 429-430). In March 2014 Mr. Pearson wrote a letter explaining that Mr. Irwin had COPD, generalized arthritis, and bipolar disorder. (Tr. 436). He noted pain was greatest in the left shoulder and that these conditions limited Mr. Irwin's ability to work and perform activities of daily living. (Tr. 436).

         In April 2014 an MRI showed that Mr. Irwin had a SLAP (superior labrum, anterior to posterior) tear of the left shoulder. (Tr. 440). Records from 2015 show that Mr. Irwin had no insurance and was having difficulty affording treatment. (Tr. 452). Shauna McBride, MMS, PA-C, recommended Mr. Irwin apply to Medicaid to have his SLAP tear repaired. (Tr. 482). An exercise tolerance test showed possible myocardial ischemia. (Tr. 460). In May 2015 he was diagnosed with leukocytosis, a disorder characterized by a high white blood cell count. (Tr. 496, 499). Also in May 2015 Mr. Irwin began seeing Dr. William Esplin, who noted positive straight leg raise tests, bilaterally, and observable osteoarthritic changes in the hands. (Tr. 498).

         With regard to his mental impairments, Mr. Irwin was hospitalized for seven days in April 2009 struggling with suicidal ideation. (Tr. 279). He was prescribed medication and therapy. (Tr. 279). His diagnosis was bipolar disorder and depression. (Tr. 287, 297). Mr. Irwin reported that many of the medications did not help. (Tr. 309, 311, 312). Mr. Irwin was again seen for suicidal ideation in January 2010. (Tr. 351). He complained of anxiety. (Tr. 361). In September 2011 Mr. Irwin reported that his medications were making him sleepy all the time and he had to stop taking them as he needed to get back to work. (Tr. 373).

         In August 2013 Mr. Irwin underwent a consultative psychological exam with Dr. Ryan Houston. (Tr. 420). Dr. Houston diagnosed bipolar disorder and anxiety disorder. (Tr. 426). He stated that Mr. Irwin has memory issues likely related to stress. Id. He noted he had not found any medication that seemed to work. Id. Dr. Houston stated Mr. Irwin's impairments would interfere with his ability to interact with his co-workers and noted his symptoms might become more severe in a work environment. Id.

         In March 2015 Mr. Pearson filled out a residual functional capacity assessment. He noted that Mr. Irwin's medications cause fatigue and dizziness. (Tr. 454). He opined that Mr. Irwin's pain would constantly interfere with his ability to maintain attention and concentration. (Tr. 454). His stress would frequently interfere with his ability to maintain concentration and attention. (Tr. 454). He opined that Mr. Irwin could walk no more than a city block without pain, would have problems with stooping, crouching, and bending. (Tr. 455). He opined that Mr. Irwin would need to lie down or recline throughout the workday due to fatigue and pain. (Tr. 455). He stated Mr. Irwin would need to lie down about two hours of an eight hour workday. (Tr. 455). He stated that Mr. Irwin could sit for about thirty minutes before he would need to change positions, stand for about thirty minutes before he needed to change positions and walk for about twenty minutes. (Tr. 455). Dr. Pearson also noted that Mr. Irwin would be limited in his abilities to use his upper extremities. (Tr. 456). Finally he opined Mr. Irwin would be off task more than 30% of the workday and miss five or more days of work per month. (Tr. 457).

         B. Hearing Testimony

         At the hearing, Mr. Irwin testified he was fifty years old. (Tr.40). He is five-foot-seven-inches tall and weighs 190 pounds. (Tr. 40). He completed his GED, but has no other schooling. (Tr. 41). The last time he worked was January 2012 in a training program at Deseret Industries. (Tr. 41). It was not full time work. (Tr. 41). Prior to that he worked at Family Dollar Store but had to stop as he was unable to lift the pallets. (Tr. 42-43).

         Mr. Irwin testified that he started having shortness of breath in 2011. (Tr. 45). He testified that any physical activity makes it difficult for him to breathe. (Tr. 46). He can walk about a block before he is out of breath. (Tr. 46). Some chemical ...

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