United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
William E. Smith Chief Judge
the Court are a Motion to Reverse, filed by Plaintiff Joana
Cepeda, on behalf of her daughter E.G.
(“Plaintiff”) (ECF No. 14); a Motion to Affirm,
filed by Defendant Acting Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration, Nancy Berryhill (“Defendant”)
(ECF No. 15); Magistrate Judge Lincoln D. Almond's Report
and Recommendation (“R&R”) (ECF No. 17),
which was filed on January 6, 2017, and recommends that the
Court grant Plaintiff's Motion to Reverse and deny
Defendant's Motion to Affirm; and Defendant's
Objection to the R&R (“Defendant's
Objection”) (ECF No. 18). The R&R recommends that
Final Judgment enter in favor of Plaintiff, reversing the
decision of the Commissioner and remanding this matter for
further administrative proceedings. (R&R 13.)
Judge Almond's R&R concluded that it was error for
the presiding Social Security Administration's
Administrative Law Judge (the “ALJ”), under the
circumstances presented, “to rely almost exclusively on
the consulting psychologists' opinions.”
reaching his decision, the ALJ relied on the opinions of
consulting psychologists, Drs. Gordon and Hughes, who in turn
had relied on records from March 2013 and July 2013,
respectively. The ALJ's decision was in lockstep with the
consulting doctors in every area of potential limitation, and
the ALJ stated that he gave “great weight” to
their opinions. (See e.g., ALJ Hr'g Decision
dated 4/24/14, Administrative R. 31, ECF No. 7-2.)
Gordon and Dr. Hughes each considered the report of Dr.
Teixeira from February 28, 2013. (Administrative R. 79, 90,
ECF No. 7-3.) But, in August 2013 (several months before the
ALJ's decision issued in April 2014), E.G. was taken out
of public school and placed in a residential program, St.
Mary's Home for Children (“St. Mary's”).
(See generally St. Mary's Discharge Summary, Ex.
10F, ECF No. 7-7.) She was discharged from St. Mary's in
February 2014, and transferred to Farnum House, a second
residential treatment program. (Id.) As the
Magistrate Judge noted, E.G.'s discharge summary notes
from St. Mary's state that “[i]t was determined
that [E.G.] needed a higher level of care in order to best
meet her educational and behavioral needs.”
(Id. at 1.)
Magistrate Judge identified the issue before him as
“whether the subsequent change in circumstances
effectively rendered the opinions of Dr. Gordon and Dr.
Hughes to be stale or outdated.” (R&R 11.) Though
the ALJ had access to the information regarding E.G.'s
residential treatment placements, the doctors on whose
opinions he relied did not have access to that information.
Because both Dr. Gordon and Dr. Hughes noted that E.G. had
“no inpatient/day treatment admissions”
(Administrative R. 82-83, 93-94, ECF No. 7-3), it was error
for the ALJ to rely almost exclusively on their opinions
where they were “based on a significantly incomplete
record.” Alcantara v. Astrue, 257 F. App'x
333, 334 (1st Cir. 2007).
objection, the Defendant argues that “the issue was
whether substantial evidence supported the ALJ's
conclusion that E.G. did not have marked limitation attending
and completing tasks because of her symptom
improvement when compliant with medication.”
(Def.'s Obj. 3.) The Court disagrees. While there is some
evidence that the ALJ reviewed and considered evidence of
E.G.'s placement in residential treatment programs, the
Court agrees that it was error for the ALJ to give such great
weight to outdated and stale opinions by consulting doctors.
The evidence of her residential treatment placements, as well
as her need for a higher level of care to meet both
behavioral and educational needs, represents a material
change in the evidence. See Alcantara, 257 F.
App'x at 334 (holding that consulting psychologist's
opinion not entitled to significant weight where
claimant's condition subsequently deteriorated and thus
the opinion was based on a “significantly incomplete
record”). E.G.'s improved symptoms on medication is
only one piece of what consulting or treating doctors might
consider in reviewing a complete set of records.
the Court hereby ACCEPTS the R&R (ECF No. 17); DENIES
Defendant's Objection to the R&R (ECF No. 18); GRANTS
Plaintiff's Motion to Reverse (ECF No. 14); and DENIES
Defendant's Motion to Affirm (ECF No. 15). Final Judgment
will enter forthwith in favor of Plaintiff, reversing the
decision of the Commissioner and remanding the matter for
further administrative proceedings consistent with this
Memorandum and Order and the R&R.
 Nancy A. Berryhill is now the Acting
Commissioner of Social Security. Pursuant to Rule 25(d) of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Nancy A. Berryhill has
been substituted for Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. ...