United States District Court, D. Delaware
Lynn Francis, Bethany Beach, Delaware; Pro Se Plaintiff.
P. Kressman, Regional Counsel, Region III, and Annie Kemicky,
Assistant Deputy Regional Counsel, Office of the Regional
Chief, Social Security Administration, Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania; David C. Weiss, United States Attorney for the
District of Delaware, Wilmington, Delaware; Heather
Benderson, Special Assistant United States Attorney, Office
of the General Counsel, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Attorneys
CONNOLLY, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
Kelly Lynn Francis ("Plaintiff'), who appears
pro se, appeals the decision of Defendant Nancy A.
Berryhill ("Commissioner"), Acting Commissioner of
Social Security, denying her application for supplemental
security income ("SSI") benefits under Title XVI of
the Social Security Act. See 42 U.S.C. §§
1381 -1383f. The Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). Pending before the Court are cross motions for
summary judgment filed by Plaintiff and the Commissioner.
(D.I. 19, 20). Plaintiff has requested a hearing. (D.I. 26).
Briefing is complete.
Procedural and Factual Background
filed for SSI benefits on April 29, 2014, alleging disability
as of January 2, 2004 due to bipolar disorder, depression,
impulse control disorder, and dysthymia. (D.I. 10-4 at2;
10-6at2-7). Plaintiff was bom on November 14, 1968 (D.I. 10-6
at2) and at all relevant times is considered a "younger
person" under the Social Security Act. See 20
C.F.R. § 416.963(c). Plaintiff left school after sixth
grade (D.I. 10-2 at 83), and her education is defined as
marginal under the regulations. See 20 C.F.R. §
application was denied initially on August 14, 2014, and upon
reconsideration on October 3, 2014. (D.I. 10-4 at 2-24). She
requested an administrative hearing before an Administrative
Law Judge ("ALJ"), and it was held on June 20,
2016. (DJ. 10-3 at 77-108). Testimony was provided by
Plaintiff and vocational expert ("VE") Marilyn
Stroud. The ALJ issued a decision on July 1, 2016, finding
that Plaintiff was not disabled. (D.I. 10-2 at 63-71). She
sought review by the Appeals Council, submitted additional
evidence, and her request was denied on August 3, 2017,
making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. (Id. at 2-5). On August 25, 2017,
Plaintiff filed this action seeking review of the final
decision. (D.I. 2).
lives alone. (D.I. 10-2 at 90, 93, 101). She completed the
sixth grade and can write a little and read a little but does
not read books. (D.I. 10-2 at 83, 97-99). She can do simple
math and make change. (Id. at 98). She has a
driver's license. (Id. at 86). She takes the
trolley to physician visits. (Id. at 86-87). She
does her own shopping but does not cook. (Id. at 86,
100). She uses the microwave. (Id. at 100).
Plaintiff takes care of her personal hygiene and has no
trouble dressing herself. (Id.).
able to keep the house clean and cleans the bathroom and
kitchen daily. (Id. at 93-93). Plaintiff explained
she has OCD and awakens at 2:00 to clean the kitchen, the
bathroom, and returns to clean either the kitchen or the
bathroom or something she has already cleaned. (Id.
testified that in 2004 she worked at a Starbucks serving
coffee. (D.I. 10-2 at 82). She was fired due to anger issues.
(Id. at 83). She looked for other work after that
and was employed for one week before being fired for arguing
and fighting. (Id. at 84-85).
testified that she has no friends since her parents died, and
her husband does not live with her because he could no longer
deal with her. (Id. at 85). Plaintiff testified that
during the past several years when her parents had become ill
she helped care for them before they died. (Id. at
91 -92). She pushed her father in a wheelchair and bathed and
fed her mother. (Id. at 92). Plaintiff testified
that she "got frustrated with her mother and would
scream at her. (Id.). Plaintiff explained she became
frustrated easily and gave the example of being unable to
find something. (Id. at 93).
sees a psychiatrist for her mental health conditions of
depression, explosiveness, and repetitive activities such as
cleaning. (Id. at 87-88). Plaintiff testified that
she has anxiety which "makes [her] have like panic
attacks a little bit." (Id. at 96). She is on a
number of medications including Klonopin, Lamictal, and
Oxcarbazepine. (Id. at 88). Plaintiff testified that
the medications do not really help. (Id. at 89).
Sometimes the medications cause her to be jittery, nauseous,
and hyper. (Id. at 89). Plaintiff testified that she
sleeps 16 hours a day because depression takes over.
(Id. at 90). She testified that her concentration is
not very good but explained it is more of a memory problem.
(Id. at 96). When questioned more, she indicated she
did not have a concentration problem. (Id. at 97).
testified that she stays home every day and has stayed at
home for "months." (Id. at 95). She
testified she has missed doctors' appointments and she
procrastinates. (Id.). She testified that when she
leaves her home she worries about what is going on there.
(Id. at 96). Plaintiff tried working from home but
that did not work out because she "got frustrated with
it" and agitated. (Id. at 96).
testified that she did not think she could work as a
caretaker or a sitter because she gets frustrated and mad.
(Id. at 92). Plaintiff testified that she did not
think she could clean for a living because she does not get
along with other people. (Id. at 94). When asked if
she could clean for a living if she cleaned with no one
around, Plaintiff answered, "I don't think so,"
but did not know why and then testified that she did not like
to leave her home. (Id. at 94). Plaintiff testified
that she could not work at Starbucks again because she does
not get along well with other people. (Id. at 98).
Plaintiff's Medical History, Condition, and
began treatment with Shashikala Venkatachalapathy, M.D.
("Dr. Venkatachalapathy") on February 19, 2014.
(D.I. 10-9 at 3, 5-6). At that time Plaintiff indicated she
had been depressed, irritable, and had been having mood
swings. (Id. at 3). She reported that she had been
having panic attacks that brought her to the emergency room
three to four times in the past couple months. (Id.
at 5). Dr. Venkatachalapathy noted that Plaintiff was
negative for aggressive verbal or physical behavior.
(Id.). She observed Plaintiff was fully oriented,
alert, focused and cooperative; and had good hygiene, normal
thought content and cognition, good insight, good judgment,
and above average intelligence by estimate, despite having
rapid speech and a depressed and anxious mood. (Id.
at 6). Dr. Venkatachalapathy diagnosed Plaintiff with bipolar
disorder, impulse control disorder unspecified, and
intermittent explosive disorder, and she prescribed
Dr. Venkatachalapathy saw Plaintiff on March 12, 2014, she
added the diagnosis dysthymic disorder, but the diagnosis was
omitted at later visits. (Id. at 8). Her symptoms
remained the same, but Plaintiff had stopped taking the
medication because she felt too tired and lethargic when
taking them. (Id. at 7). Dr. Venkatachalapathy saw
Plaintiff on a somewhat regular basis, occasionally adjusted
Plaintiffs medications, and made consistent observations
regarding Plaintiffs mental status, which included that
Plaintiff had good hygiene and that Plaintiff was cooperative
and focused. (D.I. 10-9 at 7-12, 45-50; D.I. 10-14 at 17;
D.I. 10-15 at 55).
Venkatachalapathy completed a mental functional capacity
assessment on July 2, 2014, and diagnosed Plaintiff with
bipolar disorder and intermittent explosive disorder, fair
prognosis. (D.I. 10-9 at 14-16). In the area of sustained
concentration and persistence, Dr. Venkatachalapathy assessed
marked limitations in Plaintiffs ability to work in
coordination with or in proximity to coworkers, supervisors,
or the general public, and in the area of social interaction
Dr. Venkatachalapathy assessed marked limitation in
Plaintiffs ability to respond appropriately to criticism.
(Id. at 14-15). She opined the conditions were long
term, but undiagnosed and untreated. (Id. at 16).
August 5, 2014, Plaintiff underwent a consultative
examination performed by Margaret Goodwin, Ph.D. ("Dr.
Goodwin"). (D.I. 10-9 at 17-23). Dr. Goodwin diagnosed
Plaintiff with bipolar II disorder and ruled out obsessive
compulsive personality disorder. (Id. at 23). Dr.
Goodwin opined that Plaintiff had mild to moderately severe
impairments as follows: mild in the ability to understand
simple, primarily oral, instructions; moderate in the
restriction of daily activities; and moderately severe in the
ability to relate to other people, carry out instructions
under ordinary supervision, sustain work performance and
attendance in a normal work-setting, cope with pressures of
ordinary work, and perform routine, repetitive tasks under
ordinary supervision. (Id. at 18-19).
described symptoms of anxiety and depression, trouble staying
focused, frequent mood swings, and anxiety attacks one or
twice a week. (Id. at 21). She indicated she had
been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and obsessive compulsive
disorder. (Id.). Dr. Goodwin reported that Plaintiff
scored at the clinically significant level in the areas of
anxiety/depression, attention problems, thought problems,
aggressive behavior, somatic complaints, withdrawal,
rule-breaking behavior, and intrusiveness. (Id. at