United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING RE: CROSS MOTIONS TO REVERSE (DOC. NO. 16) AND
AFFIRM (DOC. NO. 17) THE DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER OF
C. Hall United States District Judge
Neldyn Molina DeLeon ("DeLeon") has filed this
action pursuant to section 405(g) of title 42 of the United
States Code seeking an Order reversing the final decision of
the Acting Commissioner of Social Security, defendant Carolyn
Colvin ("Colvin"), that DeLeon is not entitled to
Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") benefits under
Title XVI of the Social Security Act. See Mot. to
Reverse the Decision of the Commissioner ("Mot. to
Reverse") (Doc. No. 16). Colvin has filed a cross-Motion
in which she asks the court to affirm the final decision
denying DeLeon benefits. See Def.’s Mot. for
an Order Affirming the Decision of the Commissioner
("Mot. to Affirm") (Doc. No. 17).
reasons that follow, the court GRANTS DeLeon’s Motion
to Reverse (Doc. No. 16), DENIES Colvin’s Motion to
Affirm (Doc. No. 17), and REMANDS this case to the agency for
proceedings consistent with this Ruling.
is a 51 year old woman who moved to the United States from
Puerto Rico in late 2011 or early 2012. See
Certified Tr. of the Record ("Tr.") at 36, 38 (Doc.
No. 11). She moved to the United States to obtain treatment
and care for her son, a minor child with Down Syndrome.
See id. at 37, 45. DeLeon does not speak English,
but she can read and write in Spanish, and she completed one
year of college in Puerto Rico. See id. at 32, 38.
She has no work history to speak of. See id. at 39.
December 29, 2011, DeLeon filed an application for SSI
benefits in which she alleged that she had become disabled on
January 1, 2010. See id. at 15. Her application was
denied on April 20, 2012. See id. at 71. DeLeon
requested reconsideration of that decision, but her claim was
again denied on April 18, 2013. See id. at 76.
DeLeon requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
("ALJ"), which was received by the Social Security
Administration ("SSA") on April 26, 2013. See
id. at 79.
Robert A. DiBiccaro of the SSA’s Office of Disability
Adjudication and Review in New Haven, Connecticut, held a
hearing on DeLeon’s application for benefits on May 12,
2014. See id. at 32. DeLeon, who was represented by
counsel, testified at that hearing through an interpreter.
See id. She was the sole witness. See id.
at 32-49. However, various medical records were submitted for
ALJ DiBiccaro’s consideration, most notably more than
two years of treatment notes from providers at Cornell Scott
- Hill Health Center ("Hill Health") in New Haven,
Connecticut, which begin in 2012, shortly after DeLeon moved
to the continental United States. See id. at
316-502. In those treatment notes, Hill Health
staff repeatedly record that DeLeon is complaining of pain in
her back and neck; occasionally these notes also reference a
possible psychiatric component to DeLeon’s complaints.
See, e.g., id. at 456 (describing DeLeon as
an "anxious looking female"); id. at 430
(stating that DeLeon has "pain in neck, unable to turn,
has herniated disk (lower back) [and] arthritis in
hands"). DeLeon’s doctors at Hill Health
prescribed her medications for her physical and mental
impairments, see id. at 217 (medication list), and
provided her with referrals for physical therapy, see
id. at 340, and mental health therapy,  see id.
at 464, 466.
addition to the treatment notes from Hill Health, the Record
before ALJ DiBiccaro included opinions from two consulting
doctors, one of whom completed a Consultative Examination and
Report, and the other of whom reviewed DeLeon’s medical
records as a nonexamining consultant. The Consultative
Examination was conducted by Frank Mongillo, M.D. ("Dr.
Mongillo") on April 9, 2013. See id. at 402. In
his Report on that examination, Dr. Mongillo notes he
evaluated DeLeon for "pain in her lower back and diffuse
arthritis and arthralgias, " and ultimately concluded
that DeLeon’s "complaints seem somewhat out of
proportion to her physical findings." Id. at
402-03. However, Dr. Mongillo "question[ed] whether or
not there is a psychiatric component to this patient’s
complaints" and opined that "a psychiatric
evaluation might be helpful." Id. at 403. Dr.
Mongillo’s Report and DeLeon’s other records were
reviewed by nonexamining consultant Firooz Golkar, M.D.
("Dr. Golkar") on April 18, 2013. See Id.
at 69. Dr. Golkar concluded that DeLeon was not disabled,
finding that her "condition results in some limitations
in [her] ability to perform work related activities but does
not prevent [her] from working, " and that, although
DeLeon had various exertional limitations, her
"allegation of total disability [was] not supported by
evidence in file." Id. at 66, 69. Dr.
Golkar’s report does not appear to address the effect,
if any, of DeLeon’s mental impairments on her ability
basis of the Record before him, on May 30, 2014, ALJ
DiBiccaro issued a Decision denying DeLeon’s SSI claim.
See id. at 9-25. In particular, ALJ DiBiccaro
applied the familiar five-step sequential test for
determining disability and made the following findings:
1. DeLeon has not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since the date on which she applied for SSI benefits;
2. DeLeon has severe impairments that include
"degenerative disk disease; mild osteoarthritis;
depressive disorder (rule-out major depressive disorder,
recurrent, moderate); and anxiety disorder NOS (rule-out
3. DeLeon "does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,
4. DeLeon has "the residual functional capacity to
perform light work . . . except that she is limited to
occasional contact with supervisors, ...