United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
J. MURPHY, III DISTRICT JUDGE.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
STEVEN WHALEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Steven Edward Patrick Mutz (“Plaintiff”) brings
this action under 42 U.S.C. §405(g) challenging a final
decision of Defendant Commissioner (“Defendant”)
denying his application for Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) under the Social Security Act. The
parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment. Both
motions have been referred for a Report and Recommendation
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1)(B). For the reasons
discussed below, I recommend that Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment [Docket #12] be GRANTED and that
Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket #11] be
February 4, 2016, Plaintiff applied for SSI, alleging
disability as of December 1, 2015 (Tr. 16). Following the
initial denial of benefits, Plaintiff requested an
administrative hearing, held on September 25, 2017 in Oak
Park, Michigan (Tr. 31). Patricia S. McKay, Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”) presided. Plaintiff,
represented attorney Michael J. White, testified (Tr. 36-46),
as did Vocational Expert (“VE”) Judith Findora
(Tr. 46-51). On April 4, 2018, ALJ McKay found Plaintiff not
disabled (Tr. 16-26). On October 23, 2018, the Appeals
Council denied review (Tr. 1-3). Plaintiff filed suit in this
Court on November 28, 2018.
born November 30, 1990, was 27 when ALJ McKay issued her
decision (Tr. 16, 26). He completed 12th grade and
worked formerly as a dishwasher, receiver at a grocery store,
and sales associate (Tr. 144). He alleges disability as a
result of anxiety, depression, and autism spectrum disorder
offered the following testimony:
“very uncomfortable” around others, adding that
his discomfort increased in larger groups causing him to
“withdraw into [him]self” (Tr. 36). He perceived
that as a “quiet, reserved” person others were
“judging” him (Tr. 37). He felt that he was in
control of his life when he was by himself watching
television or reading books (Tr. 37). He interacted with his
mother and half-sister at home but was more comfortable when
he was in his own room (Tr. 37). His discomfort with others
was characterized by fidgeting, sweats, hyperventilation, and
headaches (Tr. 38-39). He sometimes put off caring for
personal hygiene until being reminded by his mother (Tr. 38).
He was “extremely uncomfortable” in work
situations with “extreme” anxiety about
performing his job correctly (Tr. 38). His work-related
anxiety lasted from the time he attempted to find work until
he ended up leaving the job (Tr. 39).
graduating from high school, Plaintiff was unable hold a job
for any meaningful length of time due to anxiety (Tr. 40). He
experienced anxiety during his school years, noting that he
missed around two days of school each month (Tr. 40). He was
not in special education during his school years, and
attended Baker College “very briefly” (Tr. 41).
His attempts to find work through a job placement program
were not successful (Tr. 41). He stood around 5' 10"
and weighed 230 pounds (Tr. 42). He did not have a
driver's license (Tr. 42). He used a bike for local
errands but otherwise relied on his mother for transportation
(Tr. 43). He spent most of his days reading, watching
television, or playing video games (Tr. 43). He enjoyed
reading science fiction novels and mysteries (Tr. 44). He did
not keep in touch with high school classmates (Tr. 44). He
was able to do laundry (Tr. 43).
had changed mental health treatment several times due to
insurance issues or because he wasn't “connecting
with the therapist” (Tr. 44). He took psychotropic
medication and did not experience side effects (Tr. 45-46).
He did not smoke, drink, or use illicit drugs (Tr. 46). He
was unable to work due to job environment anxiety that was so
bad that he could “barely keep control of
[him]self” (Tr. 46).
2014 psychological records note Plaintiff's report of
social anxiety (Tr. 190). The same records note that
Plaintiff was a “bright student in high school, ”
had never been treated for psychiatric problems, and had
helped take care of his grandmother (Tr. 190). Plaintiff was
cooperative with normal thought processes, orientation, and
memory (Tr. 191). Plaintiff reported that his social anxiety
had increased since graduating from high school due to not
having a routine (Tr. 193). He reported that he went to the
grocery store with his mother “when needed” (Tr.
197). He reported a good relationship with his mother and
younger sister and enjoyed writing and reading (Tr. 197-198).
He reported that he had worked at Target over the holidays
but “became frustrated and quit” after two weeks
(Tr. 199). He was assigned a GAF of 50 based on social
anxiety and his report of headaches (Tr. 192).
2015 records note that Plaintiff had never taken medication
for anxiety (Tr. 205). He appeared anxious (Tr. 208). He
reported migraines lasting a few hours which were resolved
with over-the-counter pain relievers (Tr. 209). Counseling
records from the same month note that Plaintiff was eager to
prepare himself for employment (Tr. 215). He demonstrated a
normal affect and stable mood (Tr. 215). He received a good
prognosis (Tr. 215). August, 2015 records note that Plaintiff
was preparing to start a job as a receiver at Meijer (Tr.
213, 287). The same month, Lauren Blenman, D.O. noted
Plaintiff's report that the prescribed medication of
Celexa caused sleep disturbances (Tr. 251). Dr. Blenman's
records from the next month note Plaintiff's report that
he experienced ergophobia (Tr. 247). October, 2015 records note
that Plaintiff's counseling goals were “partially
achieved” with a good prognosis (Tr. 211, 284).
December, 2015 records note that Klonopin reduced
Plaintiff's worry/anxiety (Tr. 227).
Blenman's February, 2016 records note that Plaintiff felt
that “he may be transgender” (Tr. 235). May, 2016
counseling records note the conditions of social anxiety,
depression, and gender dysphoria (Tr. 281). July, 2016
counseling records note Plaintiff's report of reduced
anxiety with “self-calming skills” introduced at
an earlier session (Tr. 276). Plaintiff reported that his
anxiety, at worst, did not go higher than a “six”
on a one-to-ten scale (Tr. 276). Plaintiff reported continued
improvement in anxiety levels the following month (Tr. 275).
Blenman's September, 2016 records note that Plaintiff was
changing counselors to “hopefully find someone he
connects with more” (Tr. 304). She noted
Plaintiff's report that he had been riding his bike more
frequently but had not tried to find a job and was not
interested in online classes (Tr. 304).
January, 2017 Dr. Blenman noted that Plaintiff had a
stationary exercise bike and read and played video games for
fun (Tr. 302). In April, 2017, Dr. Blenman encouraged
Plaintiff to look for a part time job “for [a] sense of
purpose” and to “increase activity” (Tr.
300). A May, 2017 assessment notes that Plaintiff was
“dependent, ” “depressed, ”
“emotional, ” “fearful, ”
“immature, ” “nervous, ”
“quiet, ” “resistant to change, ” and
“unmotivated” (Tr. 260). Results of a self
evaluation reflected “mild anxiety” and
“moderate depression” (Tr. 261). Test results
also showed “schizoid, avoidant, and dependent
traits” (Tr. 266). Arthur Lewandowski, Ph.D.
recommended medication and regular therapy with the goals of
developing a daily routine and increasing self esteem and
coping skills (Tr. 269). The following month, Dr. Blenman
noted that Plaintiff had undergone neuropsychological testing
the previous month and was “hoping having established
diagnoses will help him get disability” (Tr. 298). She
noted Plaintiff's report of “feeling less
down” since increasing his dose of Effexor (Tr. 292).
2016, Robert Newhouse, M.D. performed a non-examining review
of the treating and examining records on behalf of the SSA,
finding that as a result of an affective disorder,
anxiety-related disorders, and autistic disorder, Plaintiff
experienced mild restriction in activities of daily living,
marked limitation in social functioning, and moderate
limitation in concentration, persistence and pace (Tr. 57).
Dr. Newhouse concluded that Plaintiff “appear[ed] able
to do simple tasks on [a] sustained basis however would need
to be in [a] position with little contact with others”
Vocational Expert Testimony
McKay found that none of Plaintiff's work activity rose
to the level of “past relevant work” (Tr. 47).
She then posed the following question to VE Findora,
describing a hypothetical individual of Plaintiff's age,
education, and work experience who was capable of ...