United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Schneider, for Plaintiff.
Green, Assistant Regional Counsel, Social Security
Administration, for Defendant.
FRANKLIN L. NOEL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Scott Crow seeks judicial review of the final decision of the
Acting Commissioner (“Commissioner”) of the
Social Security Administration (“SSA”), who
denied his application for disability insurance benefits
under Title II of the Social Security Act. This Court has
jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), 28 U.S.C. § 636(c),
and Rule 73 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The
parties have submitted cross motions for summary judgement.
See ECF Nos. 12 and 14. For the reasons set forth
below, the Commissioner's decision is
AFFIRMED and the case is DISMISSED
applied for disability insurance benefits (“DIB')
under Title II of the Social Security Act on February 27,
2013. Administrative Record [hereinafter “AR”]
10, ECF No. 10. Crow alleges his disability began on July 19,
2010. AR 231-32. Crow's application was denied initially
on August 9, 2013, and on reconsideration on February 3,
2014. AR 122-27, 129-32. An administrative hearing was held
before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Hallie
Larsen on October 30, 2014. AR 133-34. A supplemental hearing
was held on February 9, 2015. AR 38- 58. On March 30, 2015,
the ALJ denied Crow's application for DIB and found that
Crow was not disabled. AR 10-11. On June 24, 2016, the SSA
Appeals Council denied Crow's request for review,
rendering the ALJ's decision final for purposes of
judicial review. AR 1-6; see 20 C.F.R. §
404.981. On August 22, 2016, Crow commenced this civil
action, seeking an award of benefits, or alternatively,
reversal and remand for further proceedings. ECF No. 1 at 2.
FINDINGS OF FACTS
was fifty years old when he filed his application for DIB. AR
231-32. Crow claims the following severe impairments prevent
him from securing and maintaining competitive employment:
history of cervical and lumbar strain; cognitive disorder;
major depression; and post-traumatic stress disorder. AR 13,
231-37. Crow's past relevant work experience includes
jobs as a semi-truck driver and milk-truck driver. AR 28,
Medical Opinion Evidence
19, 2010, Crow was involved in a motor vehicle accident
resulting in a closed head injury. AR 412-23, 924. Following
the accident, Crow was admitted to CentraCare in St. Cloud,
Minnesota, and image testing was performed. AR 414. The image
testing failed to demonstrate any acute fractures.
August 23, 2010, Crow presented to Sanford Neurology for a
consultation. AR 451. Crow presented with complaints of loss
of consciousness and a head injury, consistent with
post-concussive syndrome. Id. In September of 2010,
Crow had a brain MRI performed. Id. The results
showed a venous angioma in the right frontal lobe. AR 414. In
October of 2010, it was noted that he had a significantly
depressed mood and flat affect with intermittent bouts of
irritability. AR 460. Crow was noted to have full motor
strength, intact coordination, normal gait, intact sensation,
full orientation, intact memory, clear but reduced speech,
intact knowledge, normal attention, intact comprehension, and
significant psychomotor slowing. AR 451-58. Crow was
diagnosed with post-concussive syndrome with possible
post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”) or
depression, and was advised he would benefit from a
consultation with a psychiatric specialist regarding his
ongoing mental-health challenges. AR 462.
Morris Hund first treated Crow at a psychiatric evaluation on
December 17, 2010. AR 542-46, 924. Crow reported that since
the accident, he had been very moody, depressed, had crying
spells, would wake up irritable, had variable appetite, poor
motivation, low energy, decreased concentration, and poor
memory. AR 542. Dr. Hund noted that Crow had normal speech
and thoughts, intact associations, no evidence of psychosis,
fair insight, full orientation, intact remote memory, some
difficulties with short-term memory, fair attention, intact
knowledge, depressed mood and affect, and no thoughts of
self-harm. AR 544. Crow was diagnosed with moderate major
depressive disorder, probable PTSD, and a cognitive disorder
not otherwise specified. AR 545.
August of 2011, Crow underwent a psychological evaluation at
Sanford Neurology with Dr. Jeffrey Leichter for determination
of individual psychotherapy. AR 24-29. Crow was diagnosed
with moderate major depression, a cognitive disorder
otherwise not specified, and a rule out diagnosis of PTSD
with a global assessment of functions (“GAF”)
score range of 55 to 60, suggesting moderate symptoms and
limitations. AR 569.
Hund treated Crow regularly over the next four years.
See AR 426-29; 542-54; 561- 64; 571-73; 604-07;
615-18; 635-38; 647-54; 659-62; 671-74; 922-23. Crow was also
seen regularly for psychiatric medication management.
See, e.g., AR 571, 586, 589. Over this time period,
Crow experienced some improvement with functioning. AR 551.
In December of 2011, Crow's GAF score was 68, suggesting
mild to slight symptoms and limitations. AR 590. He was
cooperative, engaging, had intact judgement and reasoning,
and “a little sad” mood. Id. In January
of 2012, Crow's GAF score was 70, suggesting mild to near
slight symptoms and limitations, and he reported his mood was
better and that he was staying busy cutting wood and getting
outside more often. AR 596, 604.
February of 2012, Crow's wife noted she felt he was doing
better with an increased dose of Paxil, and Crow reported to
have more motivation, better mood, was joking more, was less
irritable, and sleeping better at night. AR 615. In March of
2012, Crow's wife reported his moods had been relatively
stable and he was working at a family farm two to six hours a
day. AR 621. Crow's interactions with his psychologist
were also noted to improve and he had better eye contact.
April of 2012, Crow reported stable mood and his wife noted
that he was markedly better than when he first started
sessions. AR 625. Dr. Hund noted his progress was likely
going to be slow and he might never return to his baseline
functioning prior to the accident. AR 625.
March 30, 2012, Crow underwent an Independent Medical
Examination with Dr. Scott Yarosh. AR 1023-31. Dr. Yarosh
indicated he took into account Crow's defense mechanisms,
underlying personality features, and previous life
experiences that contributed to Crow's personality
development in order to determine what components of
Crow's reaction to stress were related to a pre-existing
predictable personality feature rather than the event itself.
AR 1031. Dr. Yarosh found Crow's lack of coping skills at
the time of the accident explained the protracted recovery
and the alleged ongoing impairments. AR 1029. He indicated
Crow appeared to have a lack of motivation to return to work
and an exaggeration of what he deemed to be impairing
physical symptoms. AR 1031. He also stated there was no
reason Crow was precluded from working with vocational
rehabilitation and seeking employment as long as he was
working with a therapist who emphasized Crow's strengths.
AR 1030. In June of 2012, Crow was noted to have an improved
mood, until he heard about being cut off from Worker's
Compensation. AR 635.
17, 2012, Crow underwent an independent medical examination
with Dr. Paul Cedarberg. AR 1032-37. Dr. Cedarberg reviewed
Crow's medical records and found that he had some
degenerative changes at ¶ 5-6 with no evidence of acute
changes. AR 1033. Crow complained of pain in his neck at any
range of motion. AR 1034. Dr. Cedarburg found that there were
no objective or diagnostic findings that could correlate to
Crow's subjective symptoms and indicated Crow showed some
signs of secondary gain with a lack of motivation to return
to work. AR 1037. Crow was diagnosed with resolved cervical
and lumbar strains. AR 1034-35.
September of 2012, Crow reported his mood had been stable
since his last visit. AR 657. Crow was noted to have a flat
affect, occasionally joked, but was still having problems
with irritability and frustration. Id. In December
of 2012, Crow was noted to joke with his psychologist,
reported an improved mood, and was able to track
conversation. AR 669. Crow's wife reported that he was
totally different from the first time he was seen, was doing
much better, and had made progress. AR 671. Dr. Hund agreed,
and indicated each time he examined Crow he felt he had made
of 2013, Crow agreed to meet with a psychiatrist monthly. AR
685. In June of 2013, Crow claimed he had persistent pain and
chronic fatigue, but had yet to follow up for a sleep study
or see a new primary care doctor for his pain. AR 689. In
July of 2013, Dr. Hund noted Crow's progress has been
somewhat stabilized. AR 849. In August of 2013, Crow reported
that he was performing work on the family farm, and would
sometimes entertain friends. AR 858. In September of 2013,
Crow reported having ongoing fatigue problems and was again
advised to have a sleep study performed. AR 862. In October
of 2013, Dr. Leichter noted that Crow's work on his
family's farm was suitable for structuring his time and
proved valuable to his purpose and feelings of competency. AR
873. In March of 2014, Crow returned to Dr. Hund and reported
mood swings dependent on the level of stress he was having.
of 2014, Crow was examined by Dr. Donald Pruessler. AR 990.
Crow was noted to have intact attention, normal speech,
intact language ability, no thought disturbances, intact
associations, no evidence of psychosis, fair and inconsistent
judgement and insight, impaired memory, impaired fund of
knowledge, dysphoric mood, and constricted effect. AR 991. In
July of 2014, Crow's wife reported he had been doing
better, was spending more time outside, and was sleeping
better, but still had variable irritability and low energy.
October of 2014, Crow saw Dr. Hund at the Fargo Veterans
Administration. AR 963- 65. Crow was alert and attentive, had
cooperative behavior, down mood, and bland affect. AR 964.
Crow continued to follow through with Dr. Hund through
February of 2015. AR 1093-115. The most recent mental status
examination observations indicate Crow had bland affect,
normal speech, cooperative behavior, appropriate grooming, no
evidence of psychosis, coherent thoughts, normal thought
processes, fair insight, fair to good judgement, and intact
memory. AR 1097.