United States District Court, D. Nebraska
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Smith Camp, Senior United States District Judge.
matter is before the Court on the Motion for an Order
Reversing Commissioner's Decision, ECF No. 22, filed by
Plaintiff Hamo Murad Ibrahim, and the Motion to Affirm
Commissioner's Decision, ECF No. 27, filed by Defendant
Nancy A. Berryhill (“Commissioner”). For the
reasons stated below, the Motion for an Order Reversing
Commissioner's Decision will be denied and the Motion to
Affirm Commissioner's Decision will be granted.
filed for supplemental security income on October 22, 2015.
Tr. 11. His claim was denied initially on February
12, 2016, and again on reconsideration on April 4, 2016.
Id. He requested a hearing, which was held on
November 8, 2017. Id. At the hearing, Ibrahim
amended the alleged onset date of disability to October 22,
2015, the application date. Id. The Administrative
Law Judge (ALJ) issued a written opinion denying benefits on
January 25, 2018. Tr. 8-22.
follows a five-step sequential analysis to determine whether
a claimant is disabled. See 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(a). The ALJ must continue the analysis until the
claimant is found to be “not disabled” at steps
one, two, four or five, or is found to be
“disabled” at step three or step five. See
Id. Step one requires the ALJ to determine whether the
claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful
activity. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(i), (b). The ALJ
found that Ibrahim had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since the application date. Tr. 13.
two requires the ALJ to determine whether the claimant has a
“severe impairment.” 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(a)(4)(ii) & (c). A “severe
impairment” is an impairment or combination of
impairments that significantly limits the claimant's
ability to do “basic work activities, ” 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.920(a)(4)(ii) & (c), and satisfies the
“duration requirement.” 20 C.F.R. § 416.909
(“Unless your impairment is expected to result in
death, it must have lasted or must be expected to last for a
continuous period of at least 12 months.”). Basic work
activities include “[p]hysical functions such as
walking, standing, sitting, lifting, pushing, pulling,
reaching, carrying, or handling;” “[c]apacities
for seeing, hearing, and speaking;”
“[u]nderstanding, carrying out, and remembering simple
instructions;” “[u]se of judgment”;
“[r]esponding appropriately to supervision, co-workers
and usual work situations;” and “[d]ealing with
changes in a routine work setting.” 20 C.F.R. §
416.922(b). If the claimant cannot prove such an impairment,
the ALJ will find that the claimant is not disabled.
See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(ii), (c). The ALJ
found that Ibrahim had the following severe impairments:
hypothyroidism; major depressive disorder; post-traumatic
stress disorder (PTSD); and generalized anxiety disorder
(GAD). Tr. 13.
three requires the ALJ to compare the claimant's
impairment or impairments to a list of impairments.
See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(iii), (d);
see also 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, App'x 1
(20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926). If
the claimant has an impairment “that meets or equals
one of [the] listings, ” the analysis ends and the
claimant is found to be “disabled.” See
20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(iii), (d). If a claimant does
not suffer from a listed impairment or its equivalent, then
the analysis proceeds to steps four and five. See 20
C.F.R. § 416.920(a). The ALJ found that Ibrahim did not
have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
impairments. Tr. 14.
four requires the ALJ to consider the claimant's residual
functional capacity(“RFC”) to determine whether
the impairment or impairments prevent the claimant from
engaging in “past relevant work.” See 20
C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(iv), (e), (f). If the claimant
can perform any past relevant work, the ALJ will find that
the claimant is not disabled. See 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(a)(4)(iv), (f). The ALJ found that Ibrahim had the
RFC to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels
but with the following nonexertional limitations: Ibrahim was
limited to occasional exposure to extreme cold, extreme heat,
humidity, hazardous machinery, and unprotected heights. Tr.
14. The ALJ also found that Ibrahim could understand,
remember, and carryout simple routine instructions, Tr. 14,
and he had no past relevant work. Tr. 21.
five, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant is able to
do any other work considering the claimant's RFC, age,
education, and work experience. 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(a)(4)(v). If the claimant can do other work, the
claimant is not disabled. Id. The ALJ determined
that there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the
national economy that Ibrahim could perform, and, therefore,
Ibrahim was not disabled from the application date, October
22, 2015, through the date of the decision, January 25, 2018.
2, 2018, the Appeals Council denied review, and the ALJ's
decision stands as the Commissioner's final decision. Tr.
1. On August 8, 2018, Ibrahim filed a Complaint with this
Court for judicial review of the agency decision. Compl., ECF
was born in 1966. Tr. 118. He had 5 years of formal
education and can read or write little in
English. Tr. 119. He suffers from multiple physical
issues, but his most severe problems involve his mental
health. Tr. 218.
October 8, 2015, Ibrahim's primary care provider, John
Grandgenett, APRN, concluded Ibrahim had situational
depression/anxiety and prescribed Effexor. Tr. 299. On
October 22, 2015, Ibrahim filed an application for social
December 04, 2015, Grandgenett noted Ibrahim had headaches,
dizziness, presyncope, chest pains and palpations. Tr. 297.
Grandgenett diagnosed anxiety and prescribed Lorazepam. Tr.
January 11, 2016, consultative examiner Dr. Barbara Eckert
conducted Ibrahim's consultative mental health exam
ordered by Social Security. Tr. 320-23. Dr. Eckert noted
Ibrahim's symptoms of anxiety include worrying,
restlessness, and irritability. Tr. 321. Ibrahim described to
Dr. Eckert his depression over the two prior weeks as an 8 or
9 out of a ten-point scale and indicated his depression day
to day was unpredictable. Tr. 321. Dr. Eckert noted that
Ibrahim reported sleeping up to 12 hours or not at all and
waking up frequently. Tr. 321. Ibrahim reported having
“scary” dreams or nightmares three times a week
and re-experiencing trauma and flashbacks. Tr. 321. Ibrahim
felt hopeless and worthless. Tr. 321 He was irritable around
his family and worried frequently. Tr. 321. Ibrahim described
his current mood as “okay, ” yet Dr. Eckert
noted: “[H]is mood is not congruent with his
self-report. He appears to be in a depressed mood. He makes
no eye contact during the evaluation.” Tr. 321.
Eckert noted Ibrahim had no disturbance in perception and
denied having auditory hallucinations. Tr. 322. Although
Ibrahim stated he might have some visual hallucinations, Dr.
Eckert concluded he did not appear to respond to internal
stimuli. Tr. 322. She addressed his functioning by saying he
was able to dress himself and maintain his own hygiene. Tr.
had memory problems and would forget where items were, such
as his glasses when they were in his hand. Tr. 321. Dr.
Eckert noted that he might need requests repeated and had
trouble with comprehension and memory. Tr. 321. Dr. Eckert
found Ibrahim appeared to have moderate difficulty with
sustained concentration for the interview. Tr. 323. Dr.
Eckert found Ibrahim might need extra time to complete tasks
and would be unable to keep up in a fast-paced environment.
Tr. 323. Dr. Eckert further found Ibrahim might need
additional supervision and time to carry out short and simple
instructions under ordinary supervision and, his
participation in the interview was indicative of that. Tr.
Eckert stated Ibrahim was “oriented times three,
” was able to state the date, and could receive,
organize, analyze, remember, and express information
appropriately in a conversation. Tr. 322. Dr. Eckert stated
Ibrahim was cooperative. Tr. 322. Ibrahim's psychomotor
activity was slow, but his thought content was appropriate
and adequate; and he had no hallucinations, delusions, or
suicidal/homicidal ideations. Tr. 322. Although Ibrahim had
difficulty with serial sevens, recalling words, and most
tasks, Dr. Eckert estimated Ibrahim had average intelligence.
Tr. 322. Dr. Eckert stated Ibrahim's overall cognitive
functioning appeared to be in the normal range. Tr. 322.
February 10, 2016, at the request of the Social Security
Administration, consultative examiner Elizabeth Dayton, D.O.,
performed a physical examination. Tr. 326-31. Dr. Dayton
noted Ibrahim was pleasant and had normal speech and thought
content. Tr. 330.
reported to Dr. Dayton that he was diagnosed with a thyroid
disorder in 1992. Tr. 326. He reported that his thyroid
condition initially caused him difficulty sleeping, hot
flashes, trembling or shaking of his body, and changes in the
color of his face and around his eyes. Tr. 326. Ibrahim
informed Dr. Dayton that the medications he was taking for
his thyroid disorder helped some of his symptoms, but they
had not entirely gone away. Tr. 326. Dayton found Ibrahim
appeared to be on the correct medicine for his thyroid
disease but needed to ensure his medication dosage controlled
his symptoms. Tr. 330.
March 15, 2016, Ibrahim told Grandgenett that he could not
sleep and did not like to be outside if it was sunny. Tr.
446. Grandgenett prescribed Lexapro. Tr. 446.
21, 2016, Ibrahim's treating therapist, Seth Brown,
LIMHP, concluded he had PTSD (diagnosis F43.10). Tr. 364. On
the mental status examination, Ibrahim had normal attention,
concentration, and memory. Tr. 360. His eye contact was
normal, facial expression was responsive, and affect was
appropriate. Tr. 361. His speech flow was normal, thought
content was appropriate, and organization was logical; he had
no preoccupations or hallucinations. Tr. 361. His
intelligence was average, and his abstraction, judgment,
reality-testing, and insight were all normal. Tr. 361.
1, 2016, Ibrahim reported being anxious and depressed. Tr.
344. He also reported poor sleep. Tr. 344. Nevertheless, he
stated he desired not to take medication for depression or
sleep. Tr. 344. Brown instructed Ibrahim to perform
relaxation techniques. Tr. 344-47.
August 12, 2016, Brown indicated Ibrahim was minimally
receptive to relaxation techniques and minimally open to
working with a doctor for medication. Tr. 334.
October 28, 2016, Ibrahim reported to Grandgenett that he
experienced depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Tr. 438.
Grandgenett refilled Ibrahim's Lexapro prescription. Tr.
January 13, 2017, Brown noted Ibrahim had been somewhat
resistant to improving himself physically and appeared to
come up with excuses. Tr. 421. Ibrahim agreed to work on
relaxation techniques to deal with anxiety. Tr. 421.
February 20, 2017, Ibrahim returned to Grandgenett and
reported Lexapro helped with his moodiness and anger. Tr.
434. Ibrahim did not report any continued insomnia. Tr. 434.
March 3, 2017, Ibrahim told Brown that he was feeling better
with medication, although he reported he felt very tired. Tr.
March 24, 2017, Ibrahim reported to Brown that he felt better
emotionally, but was having difficulty with energy and
motivation. Tr. 406. Brown encouraged him to socialize, go ...