United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
B. Pead United States Magistrate Judge.
parties in this case have consented to the jurisdiction of a
United States Magistrate Judge, including entry of final
judgment, with appeal to the United States Court of Appeals
for the Tenth Circuit. See 28 U.S.C. § 636 (c);
F.R.C.P. 73; (ECF No. 14). Plaintiff, Angela Lydon,
(“Ms. Lydon”) appeals the Commissioner of Social
Security's decision denying her claim for Disability
Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income under
Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, 42
U.S.C.§§401-433. (ECF No. 3). Having considered the
parties' briefs, the Administrative Record
(“A.R.”), the arguments of counsel, and the
relevant law, the Court REVERSES and REMANDS the
Commissioner's decision for further consideration.
Lydon filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits,
as well as, Supplemental Security Income on April 5, 2012,
alleging disability beginning January 1, 2010. (A.R. 487-488;
489-500). Ms. Lydon's claims were initially denied on
July 16, 2012, and upon reconsideration on December 12, 2012.
(A.R. 388-398, 399-408, 412-422, 423-433). Ms. Lydon timely
requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) on February 28, 2013. (A.R. 447-448).
held a hearing on March 18, 2014, in St. George, Utah. (A.R.
362-385). On June 10, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision finding
Ms. Lydon not disabled. (A.R. 339-361). On November 2, 2015,
the Appeals Council denied Ms. Lydon's request for
review. (A.R. 1-7). This Appeals Council denial was the final
administrative decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security in this case.
neither Ms. Lydon, nor her attorney received notice of this
decision. (A.R. 12-16). Consequently, on May 9, 2016, the
Appeals Council granted a request for the extension of time
to file a civil action. (A.R. 1-11). Ms. Lydon then brought
this action to appeal the Commissioner's decision
pursuant to 24 U.S.C. § 405(g), which provides for
judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision.
Lydon was thirty-two-years old on her alleged onset date of
January 1, 2010. (A.R. 487). Ms. Lydon completed high school
in 1996. (A.R. 542). Ms. Lydon previously worked as a store
laborer. (A.R. 542). Ms. Lydon alleges disability due to
multiple sclerosis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol,
chronic back pain, depression, and anxiety. (A.R. 541, 566,
Lydon was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis
(“MS”) in 2004. (A.R. 656). In 2007, an MRI of
Ms. Lydon's brain showed detrimental changes. (A.R. 665).
In 2011 Ms. Lydon reported chronic muscle pain and cramping.
A May 2013 brain MRI continued to show moderately extensive
multifocal white matter disease in the brain compatible with
MS. (A.R. 737). A spinal MRI showed straightening of the
normal cervical lordotic curvature and possibly a small MS
plaque on the spine. (A.R. 739). During exams, Ms.
Lydon's physician noted that she had a mildly wide-based
gait and had fallen. (A.R. 742, 820, 825). By 2014, she was
walking with a wide-based stance. (A.R. 826).
Lydon received treatment from neurologist, Dr. Laura
Schlagel, multiple times from at least 2011 through 2014.
(A.R. 735, 742, 763, 767, 773, 827-28). Ms. Lydon has tried
multiple medications to treat her MS, including infusion
treatments and injections several times a week. (A.R. 787,
805, 828). The Commissioner notes that Ms. Lydon was not
always compliant with certain medication. (ECF No. 23 at 3)
(citing A.R. 704). Ms. Lydon points out that at least some
noncompliance with medication can be explained by financial
hardship. (ECF No. 18 at 3) (citing A.R. 700).
Lydon also has issues with her blood pressure. Even with
medication, she has had readings so high that she has been
instructed to go to the emergency room to ensure she does not
have a stroke or heart attack. (A.R. 794). The medication she
received for her MS has resulted in increased blood pressure.
2014, Dr. Laura Schlagel referred Ms. Lydon to physical
therapist Brady Englestead for a residual functional capacity
assessment. Mr. Englestead opined that Ms. Lydon must use a
single point cane for walking, can only stand for ten minutes
before she would need to rest, and is unable to lift and
carry in a competitive environment. (A.R. 849). He also
opined that Ms. Lydon could not walk one city block without
rest or severe pain, walk one block on rough or uneven
ground, or climb steps without the use of a handrail. (A.R.
Lydon's treating physician, Dr. Philip Smith, M.D.,
filled out a residual functional capacity assessment noting
that Ms. Lydon had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis,
hypertension, hyperlipidemia, depression, and anxiety. (A.R.
854). He opined that Ms. Lydon's pain was severe enough
to interfere with the attention and concentration needed to
perform simple work tasks occasionally. Her stress was severe
enough to interfere with concentration frequently. (A.R.
854). He opined that she could not walk one city block
without rest or severe pain, could not walk one block or more
on rough or uneven ground, cannot climb steps without the use
of a handrail, and would have problems with balance when
ambulating. (A.R. 855). He opined that Ms. Lydon could sit
for about forty-five minutes at a time and stand/walk for
fifteen minutes at a time. (A.R. 855). He opined that Ms.
Lydon would be off task more than thirty percent of an
eight-hour workday, would likely be absent four days a month,
and would be unable to complete an eight-hour workday five or
more days a week. (A.R. 857). The ALJ afforded Dr.
Smith's opinions “very little weight.” (A.R.
administrative hearing, Ms. Lydon testified that she is
always sore and in pain. (A.R. 366). Ms. Lydon also testified
that she had three children, ages ten, eight, and seven, who
helped her with all her household chores. (A.R. 367). She has
side-effects from her medications, such as dizziness,
fatigue, and nausea. (A.R. 367). Ms. Lydon testified that she
drove, but had been doing so less because of numbness in her
legs. (A.R. 367). Ms. Lydon worked part time as a health aid
at a school until 2012. (A.R. 367-68).
Lydon testified that her MS has made her left side weaker
than her right side. (A.R. 370). Her legs and hands cramp up.
She has been having problems with her eyes. (A.R. 370). She
uses a cane. (A.R. 371). Ms. Lydon testified she could walk
only half of a block before she needed to stop and rest.
(A.R. 371). Ms. Lydon also testified that in 2011 she had to
walk “a few miles” after he car became stuck.
(A.R. 377-78). She can stand for only about five minutes.
(A.R. 371). Ms. Lydon has depression and anxiety that make it
difficult for her to leave the house. (A.R. 373). Her mother
and a friend come over to help with chores. (A.R. 373-374).
Social Security Administration follows a five step sequential
evaluation to determine whether a claimant is disabled. The
five steps are summarized in Social Security Ruling (SSR)
00-4p as follows:
To determine whether an individual applying for disability
benefits (except for a child applying for Supplement Security
Income) is disabled, we follow a 5-step ...