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Goudy v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Southern Division

November 26, 2018




         Plaintiff, Natalie Karil Goudy, seeks review of the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying her claim for disability insurance benefits (SSDI) under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 423. The Commissioner opposes the motion and urges the court to affirm the denial of benefits. For the following reasons, the court affirms the decision of the Commissioner.


         Goudy filed an application for SSDI benefits on February 18, 2014, alleging disability since August 31, 2013. AR 263, 317. The Commissioner denied her claim initially on August 1, 2014, and upon reconsideration on December 1, 2014. AR 189, 193. Goudy then appeared with counsel before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Hallie E. Larsen at an administrative hearing on November 16, 2016. See AR 105 (transcript of hearing). The ALJ issued an opinion affirming the denial of benefits on January 10, 2017. AR 13. The Appeals Council denied Goudy's request for review on November 6, 2017. AR 1. Thus, Goudy's appeal of the Commissioner's final decision is properly before the court under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).


         Goudy was born November 17, 1988. AR 161. She was 24 years old on the amended alleged onset date, and thus one day shy of her 28th birthday at the time of her hearing before the ALJ. AR 107. Goudy completed the 12th grade and received her high school diploma. AR 110. She has worked numerous jobs in retail, witnessing, and secretarial work, among other various part-time jobs for a short period of time. AR 111.

         Goudy has a history of several medical impairments, including obesity, diabetes, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, and borderline personality disorder. See AR 575, 588. She also has bursitis in her left shoulder following a fall that she treated through physical therapy in 2016. AR 866-906.

         Goudy has received care at the Lanning Center for Behavioral Services for psychotropic medication management. AR 517. She has also received care at the Howard Community Health Center for various issues. See AR 591-625. According to a progress note from the Howard Community Health Center, when the provider recommended therapy for Goudy's worsening depression, Goudy stated that seeing a therapist has “always been such a hassle.” AR 548. In another note from November 27, 2013, Goudy noted more headaches, she has been “feeling very sick weak dizzy” for about a month, and she has had chest pain or discomfort from stress, but the medical provider's physical findings showed no abnormalities. AR 549-51. The provider recommended ways for Goudy to stabilize her blood sugar and glucose levels, encouraged counseling, and encouraged a regular eating schedule for diabetic maintenance. AR 552.

         Goudy presented to the emergency room at Avera Queen of Peace in Mitchell, South Dakota on December 8, 2013, for a headache and cough, but was discharged after her head CT scan and chest X-ray were normal. AR 640-41. She presented to the same emergency room again on January 25, 2014, for low blood sugars, intermittent diarrhea, and nausea, but was discharged with instructions to maintain good dietary control at home for her diabetes. AR 653. During another visit to the same emergency room on August 18, 2014, Goudy complained that “her brain hurt” but denied any headaches. AR 669. Based on her normal physical exam and normal labs, the emergency room doctor referred her back to her primary care provider. AR 670.

         On April 3, 2014, Goudy presented to the Huron Regional Medical Center (HRMC) emergency room for abdominal pain. AR 564. It was noted that Goudy “is very manic and hard to follow, ” and she “will laugh and smile” but told the doctor her “pain is a 10.” Id. On April 18, 2014, Goudy again presented to the emergency room at HRMC with complaints of abdominal pain, nausea, and heartburn. AR 556. She reported “pain is a 9-10/10” but the doctor noted she “sits up having conversation without any difficulty.” Id. An X-ray of her abdomen appeared normal and she was discharged with magnesium citrate for constipation. AR 560-61.

         Goudy also received care in 2014 and 2015 from Dr. Lyle Christopherson, a psychiatrist at Community Counseling Services in Huron, South Dakota. See AR 574-78. During an April 7, 2014 visit, Dr. Christopherson noted Goudy's medication history, explaining the side effects Goudy felt from numerous antipsychotic medications, and he noted Goudy's trouble with concentration, anxiety, poor energy levels, and poor sleep habits. AR 574. He prescribed her Latuda, but when he examined her one month later, he noted that she “had a miserable time with” the Latuda. AR 577. In the same note, Dr. Christopherson stated, “I'm not sure exactly what her motives are for getting better.” Id. On July 22, 2014, Dr. Christopherson examined Goudy again but noted that once her Depakote level increases, he believed she would sleep better and be in more control. AR 587. On September 3, 2014, Dr. Christopherson noted that Goudy “desperately needs DBT [dialectical behavior therapy]” but she has refused to participate, and he noted his belief that disability has been Goudy's “primary goal all along.” AR 588. She continued to see Dr. Christopherson but missed or canceled some appointments. AR 747, 752. As he continued to manage her medications, Dr. Christopherson's notes from 2015 show that Goudy's progress fluctuated. AR 753-58.

         Dr. Tracy Davies with the South Dakota Disability Determination Services examined Goudy on July 10, 2014. AR 579-85. Dr. Davies determined that Goudy's diabetes and hypothyroidism, which she found to be medically managed, would not prevent Goudy from working, but Goudy had significant psychiatric issues. AR 583. She concluded that Goudy “seems to lack motivation to take better care of her health and improve her morbid obesity.” Id.

         Goudy also had many individual psychotherapy sessions at Dakota Counseling Institute between 2014 and 2016. AR 733-44, 781-92. It was noted that mismanagement of her diabetes and thyroid problems contributed to Goudy's irritability and impulsiveness, so Goudy was encouraged to follow up with her provider on her physical health needs, which directly impacted her emotional functioning. AR 737. At the next session, on March 19, 2015, Goudy discussed how her physical health issues prevented her from completing job responsibilities. AR 738. The counselor determined that Goudy had attempted to work an eight-hour shift without drinking any water or eating. Id. The counseling notes state that Goudy “hesitated to accept her negligence in managing her diabetes.” Id. In February 2016, Goudy participated in a DBT group psychotherapy session, and the clinician's notes indicate that Goudy's participation was positive. AR 912. But notes from subsequent individual psychotherapy sessions reference Goudy's justifications for missing sessions, anger at the therapist, and irritation. AR 913-15. In a progress note dated September 23, 2016, Goudy's mental health clinician reminded Goudy that her physical and emotional health stabilized while she was employed as a waitress, and Goudy agreed “but denied the need to return to work because she is ‘so close to being approved for SSI.' ” AR 930.


         During the administrative hearing, the ALJ heard testimony from Goudy and Warren Haagenson, a vocational expert. Goudy, represented by counsel at the hearing, testified about her work experience and the difficulties she has had physically and mentally while working. AR 111-15. She testified that her two most recent jobs were as a waitress, but one job lasted only two or three months because she did not get along with her coworkers, suffered from anxiety attacks, and the job caused her hip pain. AR 111. The other waitressing job ended because of her anxiety attacks as well. AR 112-113.

         Goudy testified that she participates in counseling, sees her psychiatrist, Dr. Christopherson, and just started hypnotherapy to treat her anxiety. AR 113-14. She also testified about her physical impairments that interfere with working. These include her left hip sliding out of place, bad joints, Type 2 diabetes, and hypothyroidism. AR 115. She stated that low and high blood sugar levels affect her mood, ranging from erratic or irritated behavior to angry yelling. Id. Goudy also testified that she suffers from bursitis in her left shoulder and Osgood-Schlatter's in her knee. AR 116. Goudy noted that she takes the medications prescribed by Dr. Christopherson for her mental health issues (AR 114) and she takes Metformin and Levothyroxine for her diabetes (AR 116).

         During a typical day, Goudy cares for her three dogs and other small animals. AR 117. She feeds, dresses, and bathes herself, but struggles getting in and out of the bathtub. Id. She does her own laundry and prepares quick meals for herself in the kitchen but does not clean up the kitchen for a couple of days because she lacks motivation and becomes distracted. AR 117-18. And while she does her own grocery shopping, she often rides a scooter to avoid hip pain and she tends to buy more than she needs. AR 118. She spends time on her phone or ...

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