United States District Court, D. Kansas
DEBORAH L. PARIS, Plaintiff,
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
KATHRYN H. VRATIL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
appeals the final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security to deny disability and disability insurance benefits
under Title II of the Social Security Act ("SSA"),
42 U.S.C. §§401-34. For reasons stated below, the
Court reverses the decision of the Commissioner and remands
for further proceedings.
April 7, 2015, plaintiff filed her disability and disability
insurance applications with the Social Security
Administration. She alleged a disability onset date of
December 19, 2014. Plaintiff s benefit application was denied
initially and on reconsideration. On September 13, 2017, an
administrative law judge ("ALJ") concluded that
plaintiff was not under a disability as defined in the SSA
and that she was not entitled to benefits. See Transcript
Of Administrative Record (Doc. #14) filed December 7,
2018 ("Tr.") at 39-54. On July 12, 2018, the
Appeals Council denied plaintiff s request for review. Tr. at
1-4. Plaintiff appealed the final decision of the
Commissioner to this Court. The decision of the ALJ stands as
the final decision of the Commissioner. See 42
U.S.C. § 405(g).
following is a brief summary of the factual record.
is 56 years old. She worked as a school teacher and choir
director until December 19, 2014. Since that time, plaintiff
has worked occasionally as a substitute teacher and a choir
director at her church, but has not engaged in substantial
October of 2013, plaintiff was diagnosed with stage 2 breast
cancer. She underwent a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and
radiation therapy. Plaintiff has been cancer free since 2015.
part to her cancer treatments, plaintiff developed ongoing
problems with fatigue, peripheral neuropathy, cardiomyopathy,
thoracic ascending aortic aneurysm, migraines, sleep apnea
and Hashimoto's thyroiditis. The peripheral neuropathy in
plaintiffs legs and feet has worsened over time and continues
to cause pain. Plaintiff treats her migraine headaches with
medication, but it does not always control the headaches in a
in June of 2015, Jeffrey Snyder, M.D., plaintiff s primary
care physician, treated her for fatigue, peripheral
neuropathy, migraine headaches and joint pain. On September
7, 2016, Dr. Snyder noted that plaintiff s fatigue was so
profound that she could "hardly function." Tr. 841.
By November 30, 2016, Dr. Snyder noted that plaintiff was
still battling fatigue throughout the day and had not been
able to substitute teach. Tr. 849.
March of 2017, Dr. Snyder submitted a medical source
statement in support of plaintiff s claim for disability. Dr.
Snyder noted that plaintiff suffered from cardiomyopathy,
thoracic ascending aortic aneurysm, migraines, moderate
obstructive sleep apnea and hypothyroidism. Tr. 795. Dr.
Snyder opined that plaintiff could work for only two hours
each day and that she is unable to perform the material
duties of any occupation because of profound fatigue. Tr.
796-97. Dr. Snyder's opined that plaintiffs profound
fatigue could not be fully explained by one condition and was
likely caused by multiple factors. Tr. 797. Dr. Snyder noted
that his "personal observation during recent office
visits is that of a profoundly fatigued individual, with
little tolerance for activities requiring significant energy
expenditure." Tr. 797.
March 1, 2016, Clinton Malone, M.D., a cardiologist, treated
plaintiff for cardiomyopathy and thoracic ascending aortic
aneurysm. Dr. Malone opined that plaintiff had marked
limitation of physical activity, as demonstrated by fatigue,
palpitation, dyspnea or anginal discomfort with ordinary
physical activity. Tr. 790. Dr. Malone opined that stress
contributed to plaintiffs symptoms and that she was incapable
of working even a low stress job. Tr. 790. Dr. Malone
explained that with work, she experienced elevated blood
pressure, shortness of breath and profound fatigue which
worsened with exposure to high stress jobs. Tr. 790. Dr.
Malone also noted that plaintiff s physical symptoms and
limitations caused emotional distress including crying and
anxiety. Tr. 790.
Phelps, M.D., a medical consultant for Disability
Determination Services, opined that plaintiff could perform
light work. Dr. Phelps opined that plaintiff could stand or
walk with normal breaks for about six hours in an eight-hour
day. Tr. 121. Likewise, Dr. Phelps found that plaintiff could
sit with normal breaks for about six hours in an eight-hour
day. Tr. 121.
testified that she continued to work as a teacher throughout
her cancer treatment. Tr. 87. She testified that beginning in
August of 2014, she experienced "severe fatigue"
while performing her job responsibilities. Tr. 87. By
December of 2014, she was "falling apart" and could
"hardly make it through the day." Tr. 88. Plaintiff
asked for accommodations at work, but ...