United States District Court, D. Utah
DAVID PAICE, SURVIVING SPOUSE OF LATRISHA PAICE, DECEASED PLAINTIFF, Plaintiff,
ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
J.Furse United States Magistrate Judge
parties in this case have consented to having United States
Magistrate Judge Evelyn J. Furse conduct all proceedings in
this case, 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); See also
F.R.C.P. 73; (ECF No. 13). Plaintiff, David Paice, Surviving
Spouse of Latrisha Paice (“Ms. Paice”), appeals
the Commissioner of Social Security's decision denying
her claim for Disability Insurance Benefits under Title II of
the Social Security Act (“the Act”) (ECF No. 2).
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.
Paice filed an application for Disability and Disability
Insurance Benefits on August 27, 2010, alleging disability
beginning on December 2, 2005 (See Tr. 16). Ms.
Paice's claims were initially denied on January 20, 2011,
and again upon reconsideration on February 24, 2011 (Tr. 126,
127). Thereafter, Ms. Paice timely requested a hearing before
an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on February
28, 2011(See Tr. 170-171).
hearing was held on March 19, 2012, in Salt Lake City, Utah
before an ALJ (Tr. 39-81). The ALJ issued a decision finding
Ms. Paice not disabled on April 2, 2012 (See Tr.
130-151). The Appeals Council granted Ms. Paice's request
for review and issued an order remanding the case to an
administrative law judge on October 31, 2013 (See
Tr. 152-156). Among other things, the remand order from the
Appeals Council stated that upon remand the ALJ will:
“[o]btain supplemental evidence from an appropriate
medical expert to clarify the nature, severity, and limiting
effects of the claimant's medically determinable mental
impairments” (Tr. 154-155).
remand hearing was held on March 3, 2014, in Salt Lake City,
Utah, before an ALJ (Tr. 82-125). The ALJ issued a decision
again finding Ms. Paice not disabled on April 25, 2014
(See Tr. 13-38). Ms. Paice passed away on October
31, 2015 (Tr. 10). On November 27, 2015, Ms. Paice's
surviving spouse, David Paice, filed a Notice Regarding
Substitution of Party Upon Death of Claimant (Tr. 9). The
Appeals Council denied Ms. Paice's request for review on
February 19, 2016 (See Tr. 1-5). This Appeals
Council denial was the final administrative decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security in this case. Thus, the ALJ
decision stands as the final decision of the Commissioner.
Paice brought this action to appeal the Commissioner's
decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), which provides
for judicial review of the defendant's final decision.
Paice was diagnosed with fibromyalgia (Tr. 662, 665, 668,
677). She was also treated for insomnia (Tr. 675). In
addition, during an abdominal ultrasound performed in July
2009, the doctor observed that Ms. Paice suffered from fatty
liver disease (See Tr. 757). Additionally, Ms. Paice
also had esophagitis, a hiatal hernia, and gastritis (Tr.
2010, Ms. Paice saw a neurologist for pain in her face. Ms.
Paice told the neurologist that she experienced pressure,
heat, and shock-like feelings in her head and neck
(See Tr. 623). Ms. Paice also reported that she had
pain in her face and experienced tremors in her upper lip and
numbness and tingling in her bottom lip and on the left side
of her face (See Tr. 623). At this time, it was
noted she was experiencing difficulty speaking, swallowing,
coordination and balance issues, weakness, sensory changes,
headaches, and joint pain and stiffness (Tr. 624). She was
eventually diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia (Tr. 870). An
MRI of her brain confirmed that she had white matter changes
in her brain (Tr. 625, 644-645, 716). In his write up after
completing the MRI and other tests, Ms. Paice's doctor
hypothesized that the white matter changes were likely
related to “chronic ischemic changes, ” as
opposed to demyelinating disease (See Tr. 628).
Moreover, her doctor believed that Ms. Paice's headaches,
and the ineffectiveness of certain painkillers like Topamax
and Pamelor to relieve her pain, were a part of chronic pain
syndrome (See Tr. 628). Ms. Paice's headaches
were severe enough that despite her consistent use of pain
medication she had to go to her doctor or the emergency room
for breakthrough pain (Tr. 637, 670, 706, 805, 852, 904, 906,
1010, 1022). She reported that the headaches caused visual
changes (Tr. 842). An MRI of her cervical spine showed some
disc bulging (Tr. 642).
Paice also had cardiac issues (Tr. 646, 649). In February
2010, Ms. Paice complained of chest pain (Tr. 620). An
echocardiogram in October 2010 showed impaired relaxation
pattern of left ventricle filling and mild mitral valve and
tricuspid regurgitation (Tr. 635-636).
regard to her mental impairments, the record shows that in
March 2006, Ms. Paice reported increased personal stress and
had severe symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks (Tr. 991).
Ms. Paice underwent a consultative psychological exam. She
was diagnosed with pain disorder and adjustment disorder with
mixed anxiety and depressed mood (Tr. 772). She was taking
medication for her anxiety (Tr. 809). She was given a GAF
score of 60, indicating moderate impairment (Tr. 772). The
Agency physician opined that she would be moderately limited
in her ability to “complete a normal workday and
workweek without interruptions from psychologically based
symptoms and to perform at a consistent pace without an
unreasonable number and length of rest periods” (Tr.
2012, Ms. Paice's treating physician, Nelson Astle, M.D.,
filled out a residual functional capacity assessment
(See Tr. 868). Dr. Astle had treated Ms. Paice since
1996 (Tr. 868). He opined that Ms. Paice could walk for 1
hour without interruption for a total of 4 hours of an 8-hour
workday and she could lift no more than 5-10 pounds
(See Tr. 865). He stated that Ms. Paice would need
to rest throughout the day due to fatigue and would miss at
least 2-3 days of work each month (Tr. 868). Dr. Astle
reiterated in interrogatories that, in his opinion, Ms. Paice
had these impairments on or before December 31, 2010
(See Tr. 936).