United States District Court, D. Nebraska
E. STROM, Senior Judge United States District Court
matter is before the Court for judicial review of a final
decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (“the Commissioner”). Nasser
Khalil Ali (“Ali”) appeals the
Commissioner’s final decision denying Ali’s
application for disability benefits. After reviewing the
record, the briefs, and the applicable law, the Court finds
that the Commissioner’s decision should be affirmed.
about August 10, 2012, Ali filed an application for
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) (Tr.
180-95). On October 4, 2012, the plaintiff’s
applications were initially denied (Tr. 94-97). Ali requested
a reconsideration of his denial, which was again denied (Tr.
January 17, 2013, Ali requested a hearing before an
administrative law judge (“ALJ”) (Tr. 114-15).
Ali disagreed with the denial because he claimed he was
unable to work due to depression, stress, dizziness, sadness,
and anger issues (Id.).
ALJ, James Harty, held an administrative hearing on October
21, 2013, in Wichita, Kansas (Tr. 34-55). On January 23,
2014, the ALJ found that Ali was not under a disability
within the meaning of the Social Security Act from June 30,
2009 to the date of the decision (Tr. 15-33). On March 29,
2015, the Appeals Council denied Ali’s request for
review and affirmed the ALJ’s decision (Tr. 1-6). Ali
timely filed this appeal on May 28, 2015 (Filing No.
alleges that he became disabled on June 30, 2009, because
depression, stress, dizziness, sadness, and anger issues
limited his ability to work (Tr. 180-95, 229). Ali was born
on January 1, 1979, and was 34 at the time of the
administrative hearing (Tr. 180). He has a sixth grade
education, and has been unemployed since 2011 (Tr. 229-30).
He speaks very little English and has to use an interpreter
when visiting doctors (See Tr. 340-42). His previous
job history includes dishwasher, meat cutter, temporary
laborer, and line worker (Tr. 230). Ali has been diagnosed
with major depressive disorder, post traumatic stress
disorder (“PTSD”), and schizoaffective disorder
(Tr. 318, 399).
sought treatment at the Community Mental Health Center
(“CMHC”) as early as 2001 (Tr. 333). However, he
has not received continuous treatment from the CMHC
throughout the years. On May 9, 2012, Ali sought mental
health treatment from the CMHC (Tr. 316-27). Ali reported
frequent headaches and occasional dizziness (Tr. 324). He was
diagnosed with major depressive order, recurrent, and PTSD
(Tr. 318). Ali was referred to Tina Vest, MSN, APRN, a mental
health nurse practitioner (Id.).
21, 2012, Ali visited Tina Vest (“Vest”) (Tr.
340-42). Ali informed Vest that he felt like he could not
work due to marked agitation, anger, anxiety, and depression
(Tr. 340). Vest found Ali to be guarded but cooperative (Tr.
341). Vest found no evidence of cognitive decline and
Ali’s insight and judgment to be fair (Id.).
Vest diagnosed Ali with major depressive disorder recurrent,
mood disorder NOS, and PTSD (Id.). Vest prescribed
Symbyax to address anger and hostility issues (Tr. 342). In
addition, Ali was referred to psychotherapy (Id.).
August 6, 2012, Ali had a follow up appointment with Vest
(Tr. 339). Vest noted some improvement (Id.). Ali
reported doing much better, which included sleeping better,
less anxiety, and hearing voices on a less frequent basis
(Id.). On September 10, 2012, Ali visited Vest for
another follow up (Tr. 338). Vest’s impression was that
Ali was stabilized (Id.). Ali reported doing much
better, and he was less anxious and depressed (Id.).
At this time, Ali had not been to psychotherapy, even though
he was referred (Id.). Vest recommended therapy
(Id.). On November 26, 2012, Ali saw Vest again
complaining of headaches (Tr. 446). Vest‘s impression
was that Ali did not have a lot of improvements
(Id.). Vest signed Ali up for case management
services (Id.). On December 27, 2012, Ali had
another follow up with Vest (Tr. 447). Vest found that Ali
was improving (Id.). Vest initiated case management
to help with socialization and access to services
(Id.). Vest stated, “I value whether or not he
has capacity or ability to work given his diagnosis.”
(Id.). On January 24, 2013, Ali saw Vest and his
case manager (Tr. 448). Vest noted that Ali had been out of
his medications for four or five days (Id.). Vest
found him to be stable, but needed to work on socialization
February 26, 2013, and March 6, 2013, Ali underwent a two-day
psychological evaluation with Kristen Laib, M.S. (“ Ms.
Laib”), and Joseph Swoboda, Ph.D. (“ Dr.
Swoboda”)(393-401). Ali was referred for a diagnostic
evaluation by his community support worker, and because
Ali’s brother expressed concerns about Ali’s
ability to function independently and maintain employment
(Tr. 393). The Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale
(“BPRS”) was administered (Tr. 396). Ali received
a score of 65, which falls within the “markedly
ill” category indicating a significant presence of
symptoms that are likely to affect Ali’s level of
functioning (Id.). The Vineland-II was also
administered to assess adaptive behavior (Tr. 397).
Ali’s Adaptive Behavior Composite was classified as
“low” which indicates that his adaptive
functioning is below 99 percent of his peers (Id.).
Laib and Dr. Swoboda diagnosed Ali with schizoaffective
disorder and PTSD rule out: cognitive disorder, NOS (Tr.
399). They found that Ali “is likely to experience
severe deficits in living independently and caring for his
daily needs.” (Tr. 400). In addition,
“occupational achievement is likely to be severely
limited.” (Id.). Ms. Laib and Dr. Swoboda
found that Ali may have suffered a head injury as a young
child (Tr. 401). They recommended that Ali participate in a
full neurological evaluation to identify possible brain
March 19, 2013, Vest met with Ali and noted no real change
and recommended injectable medication therapy for compliance
and adherence (Tr. 449). On May 3, 2013, Vest noted that Ali
was much more improved (Tr. 450). Ali had been working with
his case manager (Id.). Ali’s mood was more
stable, and he was less paranoid and suspicious
(Id.). He was more social, and joined a gym for
exercise (Id.). On May 28, 2013, Vest noted that Ali
had improved, and that his mental status was essentially
normal (Tr. 451). On June 27, 2013, Ali had a follow up with
Vest (Tr. 452). Vest found Ali was responding ...