United States District Court, D. Connecticut
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION ON THE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION
TO REVERSE AND THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO AFFIRM THE
DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER
VANESSA L. BRYANT, U.S.D.J.
an administrative appeal following the denial of Ashok
Kumar's application for disability insurance benefits
under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g). Ashok Kumar
(“Kumar”) has moved for an order reversing or
remanding the decision of the Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration (“Commissioner”). [Dkt.
No. 14.] The Commissioner has moved for an order affirming
the decision. [Dkt. No. 22.] For the following reasons,
Kumar's motion is GRANTED, the Commissioner's motion
is DENIED, and the case is remanded for rehearing. I. Factual
Background The parties failed to file a joint stipulation of
facts as required in this District's Standing Scheduling
Order on Social Security Cases. [Dkt. 4 at 2; Dkt. 14 at 1.]
Given the parties' failure to file a stipulation of
facts, the Court has spent an inordinate amount of time
reviewing the record, which includes medical records which
were and were not before the ALJ. The following facts are
taken from the Court's own review.
was born in 1960. [Dkt. No. 13-4 at 40.] He worked as a
chemist for the Department of Public Health for 30 years
before his alleged disability arose. [Id. at 44-45;
Dkt. 13-8 at 7.] Kumar meets the insured status requirements
of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2019. [Dkt.
No. 13-4 at 16.] On May 20, 2014, Kumar applied for a Period
of Disability and Disability Insurance Benefits. [Dkt. 13-4
at 14.] On September 30, 2014, a disability adjudicator
denied his initial request for disability benefits and
thereafter denied his request for reconsideration. [Dkt. 13-6
at 3; Dkt. 13-6 at 11.] On August 19, 2015, Kumar appeared
with counsel for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). [Dkt. 13-4 at 36.] On December 2, 2015,
the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. Id. at
11. On January 27, 2016, the appeals council denied
Kumar's request for review of that decision thereby
making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. Id. at 2. This appeal followed.
Kumar's Medical History Presented to the ALJ
February 12, 2013, Dr. Surendra Chawla conducted a CT scan on
Kumar's chest which showed an ascending aortic aneurysm.
[Dkt. 13-9 at 4.] In the following months, Kumar had three
follow-up appointments regarding his CT scan. [Dkt. 13-9 at 2
(appointment with Dr. Anil Vithala); Dkt. 13-9 at 79
(appointment with Dr. Joseph Sappington); Dkt. 13-9 at 3
(appointment with Dr. Vithala).] Each doctor recommended
heart surgery. Id.
November 12, 2013, Kumar reported to Middlesex Hospital
experiencing chest pain. [Dkt. 13-9 at 8.] A physician at
Middlesex Hospital conducted multiple tests which confirmed
Kumar's aortic aneurysm. Id. at 9. Id.
Kumar left the hospital against medical advice. Id.
Shortly thereafter, on November 25, 2013, Kumar ceased
working. [Dkt. 13-4 at 16.]
December 19, 2013, at Yale New Haven Hospital, Kumar
underwent a cardiac catheterization in preparation for an
aortic aneurysm repair surgery. [Dkt. 13-9 at 29.] The
catheterization confirmed that the aortic aneurysm required
surgical intervention. Id. at 30. Thereafter, Kumar
met with multiple physicians to discuss his catheterization
results, undergo further tests, and evaluate whether to have
heart surgery. See Id. at 31 (January 31, 2014
meeting with Dr. John Elefteriades); id. at 43-45
(June 4, 2014 and July 10, 2014 meetings with Dr. Sappington
and EKG); id. at 68, 73 (November 26, 2014 and April
28, 2015 meetings with Dr. Sappington). At each appointment,
the physicians confirmed that Kumar has an aortic aneurysm
Medical Examinations and Opinions Before the ALJ
only medical opinions in the record before the ALJ were
produced by agency consultative physicians. Dr. Jaimie Burns,
Dr. Robert Sutton, and Dr. Adrian Brown each evaluated
Kumar's mental health and determined he had no functional
limitation or only mild functional limitation stemming from
mental health conditions. [Dkt. 13-9 at 7-8, 18, 60.]
Kumar's physical limitations, Dr. Firooz Golkar and Dr.
Abraham Bernstein each opined that Kumar could occasionally
lift 20 pounds, frequently lift 10 pounds, stand, sit, or
walk for 6 hours in an 8 hour workday, frequently climb ramps
or stairs or balance, and occasionally climb ladders or
scaffolds, stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl. [Dkt. 13-5 at 9,
19-20.] Dr. Golkar attributed Kumar's limitations to his
ascending aorta aneurysm, hypertension (“htn”),
and gout. Id. at 9. Dr. Bernstein cited Kumar's
aneurysm only. Id. at 20.
Medical Records and Opinions Not Presented to the
as also submitted to the Court medical records and opinions
which were not part of the record before the ALJ. Those
additional records are described below.
Files from Other Disability Claims Not Included in the
Record Before the ALJ
to applying for social security benefits, Kumar applied for
Connecticut state disability retirement benefits claiming an
effective retirement date of September 1, 2014. [Dkt. 13-3 at
168.] The State of Connecticut's Medical Examining Board
granted Kumar's claim on January 9, 2015. Id. at
193. The file includes letters from some of Kumar's
treating physicians discussing his heart condition and
opining on his ability to function. See, e.g.,
id. at 174 (note from Dr. Chawla stating Kumar
should avoid activities which can lead to increased blood
pressure); id. at 182 (letter from Dr. Vithala
stating Kumar should avoid “any stress or
anxiety” because “any increase in blood pressure
can cause increased ballooning [of his aorta] and this can be
fatal”) (emphasis in original).
file also includes a letter from Dr. Rekha Rande-Kapur,
Kumar's treating mental health physician. [Dkt. 13-3 at
183.] Dr. Rande-Kapur stated it is “well known”
that stress can “exacerbate any illness, especially
heart disease, ” and opined that Kumar could not cope
with a high-stress job or one which required him to work more
than four hours per day. Id. at 184.
also offers his applications for FMLA benefits dated June 10,
2013 and June 19, 2013. [Dkt. 13-4 at 27.] In those forms,
Dr. Vithala states Kumar has a chronic condition requiring
treatment and remarks that Kumar could ...