United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
DAVID PROCTOR, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Mandi Renee Jeffers (“Plaintiff” or
“Jeffers”) brings this action pursuant to Section
205(g) of the Social Security Act (the “Act”),
seeking review of the decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security (the “Commissioner”) denying her claims
for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”). See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Based on the court's review of the record and the briefs
submitted by the parties, the court finds that the decision
of the Commissioner is due to be reversed and remanded under
Sentence Four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
applied for DIB on July 23, 2013, alleging a disability
beginning on or about June 30, 2012. (Tr. 79, 135). The
Social Security Administration (“SSA”) initially
denied Plaintiff's application on October 28, 2013. (Tr.
89). Plaintiff then requested a hearing by an Administrative
Law Judge. (Tr. 103). Administrative Law Judge Walter V.
Lassiter (“the ALJ”) heard the case on October
24, 2014 in Montgomery, Alabama. (Tr. 30-75). On May 22,
2015, the ALJ found Plaintiff was not disabled under sections
216(i) and 223(d) of the Act. (Tr. 9-26).
requested review of that decision on July 8, 2015. (Tr. 5).
On September 22, 2016, the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request. (Tr. 1). The ALJ's decision then
became the final decision of the Commissioner and therefore a
proper subject of this court's appellate review.
Chester v. Bowen, 792 F.2d 129, 131 (11th Cir.
age 31 at the time of the hearing, alleges she has been
disabled since age 28. (Tr. 25, 135). She completed a
cosmetology degree in 2003 while working as a grocery-store
cashier. (Tr. 40, 174). She never used her cosmetology
degree, however, other than to cut her father's hair
every six weeks. (Tr. 62-63).
worked as a telephone operator from 2004 to 2007 and as a
packager from 2007 to 2008. (Tr. 24, 40-42, 68-69, 156, 174,
176-78). She graduated with an associate's degree in
health-information management in May 2012 while working as a
convenience-store cashier. (Tr. 16, 37-39, 68, 174-75). Soon
after graduation, on May 10, 2012, Plaintiff suffered a
nervous breakdown and was treated for both the breakdown and
a migraine headache at Oxford Family Practice. (Tr. 16, 39,
42-43, 260). When, in June 2012, Plaintiff was not paid after
returning to work from having been out with her migraine and
anxiety, she left her convenience-store job. (Tr. 11, 24,
38-40, 43, 174-175, 192).
her May 2012 hospitalization, Plaintiff began treatment for
anxiety, depression, and migraines. (Tr. 47). She was told
that her migraines were caused by her anxiety and depression.
(Id.). Drs. Anthony Esposito and Chandra Gehi saw
and/or treated Plaintiff nine times for migraines and tremors
at Anniston Neurology Clinic. (Tr. 20-21, 50, 271-295). Drs.
Esposito and Gehi typically reported that Plaintiff was
alert, oriented, cooperative, and non-suicidal, with normal
judgment and appropriate mood and affect, though they often
noted her anxiety and depression. (Tr. 271, 273-74, 279-285,
288-91, 294). Plaintiff last saw them in November 2013
presenting mild tremor and decreasing migraine episodes of
one time per month or less. (Tr. 20-21, 269, 270-72).
May 2013 through August 2014, Dr. Glenn Archibald of
Grandview Behavioral Health Centers was Plaintiff's
treating physician. (Tr. 211-17, 222-43, 296-304). At his
initial assessment on May 6, 2013, Dr. Archibald noted that
Plaintiff was well-groomed yet her affect was inappropriate
and her mood was anxious and depressed. (Tr. 216). Plaintiff
reported losing sleep and hearing voices “for
years” with command hallucinations. (Tr. 216-17). Dr.
Archibald reported that Plaintiff's “reaction
appears geared to impress me with how severely ill she is,
” and that “all her responses are extreme.”
(Tr. 217). He diagnosed her with social phobia and noted that
she was isolated from everyone, more than she typically was
in the past. (Id.).
July, August, and September 2013, treatment notes that are
part of the record indicate that Plaintiff continued to
struggle with depression, anxiety, hallucinations, and
hypersomnia. (Tr. 214-15). In August 2013, Dr. Archibald
noted that Plaintiff was “worse, ” and in
September 2013 he noted that her progress was
“partial.” (Tr. 212-13). In November 2013,
progress notes indicate that Plaintiff's symptoms were
“much better, ” affecting her 1-2 times per week,
yet the therapist noted that Plaintiff's affect was flat,
“behavior lethargic, verbal content shallow, verbal
flow severely inhibited, poor eye contact.” (Tr. 237).
Though Plaintiff had “good days and bad days, ”
the bad days were “severe, a 10 out of 10.” (Tr.
236). Plaintiff continued to have social phobia and problems
with hearing voices. (Id.). In early December 2013
Plaintiff was back to experiencing symptoms 3 to 4 times per
week with the therapist noting “flat affect, low mood,
poor eye contact, lethargic, regressed verbal
behavior.” (Tr. 235). Later in December Plaintiff's
symptoms were rated as “much better” at 1-2 times
per week but Dr. Archibald noted that Plaintiff “had a
panic attack at the mall (crowded).” (Tr. 234).
notes from 2014 continued to track the ups and downs of
Plaintiff's treatment, with notes in late March and early
April 2014 stating Plaintiff was “functioning at her
peak level” with severe symptoms 1-4 times per week.
(Tr. 228-29). Other notes from 2014 have Plaintiff
experiencing symptoms nearly every day with flat affect and
continued auditory hallucinations (Tr. 232), hypersomnia (Tr.
227, 231), crying all of the time with symptoms every day and
“really bad depressed” (Tr. 230), depressed mood,
poor eye contact, lethargic behavior, and scarcity of verbal
elaboration (Tr. 226), and sleeping all day and inactivity
(Tr. 225). The final recorded visit in August 2014 indicates
that Plaintiff enjoyed a trip to Gulf Shores and that her
medications were helping, except for the side effect of
sleepiness during the day. (Tr. 19, 225).
Archibald completed a Mental Residual Functional Capacity
Assessment (“MRFC”) on October 23, 2014
Plaintiff constantly exhibits a baseline of severe impairment
due to mental illness. Her symptoms are severe enough to be
readily observable by non-professionals. . . . [S]he is
isolative and significantly uncomfortable in any social
situation. . . . This patient is completely incapable of
working and struggles with personal hygiene and minimal
(Tr. 21-22, 304).
seeing Dr. Archibald for mental health, Plaintiff also saw
cardiologist Dr. Osita Onyekwere for physical health. (Tr.
22-23, 306-15). Plaintiff complained, in June 2014, of
“palpitations, leg and ankle swelling, and
fatigue.” (Tr. 22, 312). Noting Plaintiff's
“[p]oorly balanced diet, ” Dr. Onyekwere
prescribed additional medications and encouraged her to
improve her diet. (Tr. 314). Dr. Onyekwere reported at every
visit between June and October 2014 that Patient was alert,
oriented to time, place, and person, and had appropriate mood
and affect. (Tr. 305-15). Plaintiff also saw ...