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Swisher v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Maine

December 23, 2015

RANDY D. SWISHER, JR., Plaintiff
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION

John C. Nivison U.S. Magistrate Judge

The matter is before the Court on Defendant’s Rule 59(e) Motion for Amendment of Judgment. (ECF No. 25.) Through the motion, Defendant requests that the Court reconsider its decision to remand the matter for further proceedings. (ECF No. 22.) After consideration of the parties’ arguments and following further review of the record, the Court denies the motion.

Background

On July 2, 2015, upon consideration of the record, the Court ordered a remand of Plaintiff’s claims for disability insurance and supplemental security income. The Court determined that remand was warranted because the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) had not articulated a rational basis, supported by substantial evidence, for her finding that Plaintiff had not demonstrated a combination of impairments that met or equaled the paragraph C criteria of listing 12.04. (Mem. Dec. at 4, ECF No. 22.) As stated in the decision, “[b]ecause neither the ALJ nor the consultants upon whom the ALJ relied assessed the paragraph C criteria of listing 12.04, remand is appropriate.” (Id. at 5.)

The listing inquiry arises at step three of the sequential evaluation process. In the preliminary paragraph of the ALJ’s step three discussion, the ALJ stated:

Although Henry Skinner, M.D., [claimant’s] treating psychiatrist at Sweetser since December 2010, has opined that the claimant’s mental impairments meet listing criteria, the weight of the medical evidence and his own treatment notes refute this opinion. No other treating or examining physician has mentioned findings that would meet or equal a listed impairment.

(ALJ Dec. at 4, ¶ 4.) Thereafter, the ALJ discussed the absence of evidence meeting the B criteria of the listings, which criteria the ALJ supportably concluded were not satisfied. (Id. at 4 - 5.) The ALJ then turned to the C criteria, which can independently support a listing determination. The ALJ reiterated:

Although Dr. Skinner opines that these criteria are met, there is no support for this in the record. Dr. Skinner stated that the claimant is completely unable to function outside of his home, a conclusion that is not supported in his own treatment notes let alone the medical evidence of record.

(Id. at 5.)

Because the ALJ found it appropriate to consider listing 12.04, the relevant paragraph C standard was the following:

Medically documented history of a chronic affective disorder of at least 2 years’ duration that has caused more than a minimal limitation of ability to do basic work activities, with symptoms or signs currently attenuated by medication or psychosocial support, and one of the following:
….
3. Current history of 1 or more years’ inability to function outside a highly supportive living arrangement, with an indication of continued need for such an arrangement.

20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpt. P, App. 1, ยง 12.04(C)(3). The ALJ did not mention the criteria of 12.04(C)(3), nor did any consulting medical professional ...


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