social security disability - treating physician - clinical/home setting v. work setting
The disputes before the Court primarily concern plaintiff’s mental impairments, including her history of alcohol and drug dependency, bipolar disorder, and severe depression.
Evidence that a claimant is doing well in treatment does not contradict a treating physician’s opinion that she is unable to work. “[T]he work environment is completely different from home or a mental health clinic. [A treating physician’s] observation that [a patient] is ‘stable and well controlled with medication’ during treatment does not support the medical conclusion that [the patient] can return to work.” Morales, 225 F.3d at 319. For that reason, a treating physician’s opinion that an individual cannot work may “not be supplanted by an inference gleaned from treatment records reporting on [plaintiff] in an environment absent of the stresses that accompany the work setting.” Id.; see also Brownawell v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 554 F.3d 352, 356 (3d Cir. 2008) (reiterating “the distinction between a doctor’s notes for purposes of treatment and that doctor’s ultimate opinion on the claimant’s ability to work”); Nguyen v. Astrue, No. 06-3443, 2008 WL 200175, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 23, 2008) (holding that when an ALJ rejected a treating psychiatrist’s opinion based on clinical notes that the plaintiff was doing well on medication, the ALJ improperly “substitute[d] his clinical judgment for that of the treating psychiatrist”). The ALJ thus erred in rejecting the doctor's inability-to-work opinion on that basis.
Evidence that plaintiff sometimes performed domestic tasks such as caring for her children and doing chores does not contradict a doctor's opinion that she could not work. Defendant’s Objections omit plaintiff’s repeated statement that the domestic tasks occur only “on a good day[;] a lot of the time I’m unable to do these things so my friend or daughter drop my son off at daycare and I never get up.” This explanation by plaintiff is important. Plaintiff concedes that she might be able to sustain a full-time job for “a week or two” or even a month. However, “not too many bosses are willing to put up with [her]” when her bipolar disorder hits a “down stage.” The ALJ committed legal error when he refused to consider the doctor's opinion.