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Williams v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

October 6, 2016

TILO'E C. WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security; Defendant.



         This matter is before the court on plaintiff Tilo'e C. Williams' appeal of an adverse decision by the Social Security Administration. Filing No. 1 (Complaint). This is an action for judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“the Commissioner”) that plaintiff is not disabled. The plaintiff appeals the Commissioner's decision to deny his application for Social Security benefits under Title II and Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401 et. seq. and 42 U.S.C. § 1381 et seq., respectively. This court has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3). Upon review of the record, this court concludes that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) denying benefits is not supported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, the decision of the ALJ, and thereby the Commissioner, is reversed.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On November 26, 2012, plaintiff protectively filed an application for supplemental security income. Filing No. 12-1 at 14 (ALJ Hearing Decision). The Commissioner initially denied plaintiff's claim on February 28, 2013, and again upon reconsideration on May 9, 2013. Plaintiff filed a request for a hearing on June 3, 2013, which was held on September 11, 2014. Id. The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on November 4, 2014. Id. at 11. The Commissioner then denied plaintiff's request to review the ALJ's decision on December 22, 2015, thus making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Id. at 2 (Notice of Appeals Council Action). Following the denial, plaintiff filed a complaint before this court.

         Plaintiff, who grew up in Omaha, is thirty-six years old and currently married “but separated.” Filing No. 12-1 at 37 (Transcript of Oral Hearing). He has four children, ranging in age from eight years old to seventeen years old. Id. His current wife is not the mother of any of his four children, and plaintiff claims to be “way behind” on child support for three of his children. Id. Plaintiff complains of headaches, back pain, and mental health problems. Filing No. 12-5 at 60 (Questionnaire). Plaintiff also complains of anxiety, bad mood, depression, sleep disturbance, and low libido. Filing No. 12-6 at 112 (Progress Notes). He claims that he “get[s] angry easily and react[s] aggressively, ” and does not like being around people. Filing No. 12-5 at 60 (Questionnaire). Plaintiff states that he is currently on Risperidone, Cialis, Mirtazapine, and Fluoxetine. Id. at 57 (Medications). As of October 14, 2013, he was diagnosed with major depression, single episode with psychotic features by his psychiatrist, Vithyalakshmi Selvaraj, M.D., who treated him from October 14, 2013 to December 16, 2013 and then again on May 14, 2014. Filing No. 12-6 at 97-98 (Progress Notes). Plaintiff has also been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, unspecified, by Thomas Guck, PhD, who treated him from March 26, 2014 to April 30, 2014. Id. at 107 (Progress Notes). His alleged onset date is November 26, 2012. Filing No. 12-1 at 32 (Transcript of Oral Hearing).

         Plaintiff “remembers being depressed as a kid, ” and being “physically abused by his mom . . . whenever she [got] high.” Id. at 96. He reported that his mother, Beverly Williams, had a cocaine dependence. Id. at 97. Plaintiff states that his mother is now disabled and he “can't abandon her.” Id. at 96. He claims to relive the experience of the abuse at the hands of his mother “on a daily basis, ” getting “flashbacks” every time he sees her. Id. Plaintiff dropped out of school in the ninth grade, and claims he cannot read or write anything more than his name. Filing No. 12-1 at 39 (Transcript of Oral Hearing); Filing No. 12-5 at 5 (Disability Report). He cannot read a newspaper or write even a brief note. Filing No. 12-1 at 63 (Transcript of Oral Hearing). Plaintiff's educational records are replete with disciplinary reports, ranging from instances of verbal aggression to physical confrontation. Filing No. 12-5 at 77, 81 (Education Records).

         Plaintiff claims a “life altering event” happened to him when he was fourteen years old. Filing No. 12-1 at 62 (Transcript of Oral Hearing). He was in a severe car accident, leaving him with a brain injury. Id. He claims that after the accident, he did not attend school as much as he should have. Id. This is corroborated by a disciplinary report from October 7, 1993, which stated:

“[Plaintiff] has a history of average IQ scores until [November 1992] when his full scale IQ was 69. [Plaintiff] was struck by a van and suffered a concussion. . . . His academic performance has markedly decreased over the last 2 yrs [sic]. He is extremely distractible and interacts with his environment in a physically confrontive [sic] manner.”

Filing No. 12-5 at 81 (Education Records). The report went on to state that “[Plaintiff's] peers do not seek him out and avoid him as much as possible.” On January 10, 1994, school officials decided to reduce the length of a normal school day to only half a day for plaintiff, finding that plaintiff could not function a full day in a regular school setting.

         Id. at 78. Transcripts from Omaha Public Schools show that plaintiff received failing grades in special education classes, even after all of the curriculum was “modified” and a “1:1 strategy [was] implemented.” Id. at 70-72, 89.

         Plaintiff's educational history is summed up best by one disciplinary report in particular:

“[Plaintiff] does not begin a task without teacher assistance. If a teacher withdraws his attention, [plaintiff] will engage in many off-task behaviors. He is extremely distracted by his environment and oftentimes it appears that [plaintiff] misinterprets his surroundings. He is very select with adult interaction and he appears to mistrust many authority figures. He appears to cope with his environment via verbal and physical aggression and he does not accept confrontation.”

Id. at 89. One teacher even went so far as to report that “[Plaintiff] was the most frightening student I've dealt with . . . in-house because of his physically aggressive behavior.” Id. at 94.

         After dropping out of school, plaintiff was in and out of prison. Filing No. 12-1 at39-40 (Transcript of Oral Hearing). He reports serving time in prison on two different occasions. Id. at 40. Plaintiff first served time in state prison for “like a year and a half” for “controlled substance and fire arms” charges.[1]Id. Approximately two years after serving his first sentence, plaintiff reports being incarcerated in federal prison from 2005 to 2012 for a felon in possession of a firearm charge.[2]Id. at 41. Plaintiff claims he was sentenced to “100 and some months, ” but was released early to a halfway house for good behavior. Id. Plaintiff reports staying at the halfway house for “six months or so” and looking for employment while there. Id. He reported getting jobs through Staff Labor West, a temp agency. Id. at 43. After leaving the halfway house, plaintiff moved in with his mother. ...

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