Monica Mueller v. Comm of Social Security
Per Curiam OPINION filed : AFFIRMED, decision not for publication. R. Guy Cole , Jr., Chief Circuit Judge; Jeffrey S. Sutton, Circuit Judge and Raymond M. Kethledge, Circuit Judge.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR FULL-TEXT PUBLICATION
File Name: 17a0169n.06
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
Mar 21, 2017
DEBORAH S. HUNT, Clerk
ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED
STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR
THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF
BEFORE: COLE, Chief Judge; SUTTON and KETHLEDGE, Circuit Judges.
PER CURIAM. Monica Mueller appeals the district court’s judgment affirming the
denial of her application for disability insurance benefits.
In 2012, Mueller filed an application for disability insurance benefits, alleging that she
became disabled on May 30, 2008.
After the Social Security Administration denied the
application, Mueller requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). The ALJ
denied Mueller relief, concluding that she did not have a severe impairment or combination of
impairments. The Appeals Council declined to review the case. The district court affirmed the
denial of Mueller’s application.
On appeal, Mueller argues that the ALJ failed to give good reasons for affording little
weight to the medical opinion of her treating psychiatrist and that the ALJ erred by concluding
that her mental impairments were not severe. “Our review of the ALJ’s decision is limited to
whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standards and whether the findings of the ALJ are
No. 16-6527, Mueller v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec.
supported by substantial evidence.” Blakley v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 581 F.3d 399, 405 (6th Cir.
2009). Substantial evidence exists if a reasonable mind might accept the relevant evidence as
adequate to support the ALJ’s conclusion. Id. at 406. We review de novo the district court’s
conclusions on each issue. Id.
Mueller first argues that the ALJ failed to give good reasons for affording little weight to
the medical opinion of her treating psychiatrist, Dr. Badshah Maitra, who opined that Mueller’s
mental impairments would cause her to miss work frequently and prevent her from performing
her work consistently and effectively. A medical opinion from a treating source must be given
controlling weight if it “is well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory
diagnostic techniques” and “not inconsistent with other substantial evidence” in the record.
Gayheart v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 710 F.3d 365, 376 (6th Cir. 2013) (citation omitted). An ALJ
must provide “good reasons” for discounting the opinion of a treating source. Id. The stated
reasons must be supported by the evidence in the record and “sufficiently specific to make clear
to any subsequent reviewers the weight” that the ALJ gave to the opinion and the reasons for that
weight. Id. If a treating-source opinion is not given controlling weight, the ALJ must weigh the
opinion based on all relevant factors, including the nature of the treatment relationship, the
specialization of the medical source, and the consistency and supportability of the opinion. Id.
Substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s decision to give little weight to Dr. Maitra’s
opinion. As the ALJ recognized, Dr. Maitra’s opinion was inconsistent with his own treatment
notes from the relevant period, which reflect that Mueller would not see him or take her
medications for long periods without adverse consequences. The notes further show that Dr.
Maitra’s examinations of Mueller were unremarkable and that, when Mueller’s symptoms
became worse, she responded well to her medications.
Dr. Maitra’s opinion was also
contradicted by the evidence of Mueller’s daily activities after her alleged date of disability.
No. 16-6527, Mueller v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec.
That evidence included that Mueller was able to complete her undergraduate degree and that she
was scheduled to finish law school on time within a year, she was ranked first in her class, and
she regularly spent many hours per day doing her schoolwork.
Mueller also argues that the ALJ erred by concluding that her mental impairments were
not severe. But the evidence that the ALJ relied on in discounting Dr. Maitra’s opinion also
constitutes substantial evidence to support both the ALJ’s decision to discount the credibility of
Mueller and her husband, who claimed that Mueller’s medications were ineffective and that she
was incapable of working on a consistent basis, see Walters v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 127 F.3d
525, 531 (6th Cir. 1997), and the ALJ’s determination that Mueller’s impairments were not
severe. See Despins v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 257 F. App’x 923, 929-30 (6th Cir. 2007).
In response, Mueller contends that her impairments are severe because, although they
may not impact her every day, they periodically cause her to suffer severe symptoms. The ALJ
did not directly address the episodic nature of Mueller’s conditions, but the district court found
that the ALJ’s failure to do so was “harmless” given the “overwhelming evidence” that
supported the ALJ’s findings. Mueller v. Colvin, No. 4:15-CV-9, 2016 WL 7799314, at *7 n.7
(E.D. Tenn. Aug. 23, 2016). We agree. The ALJ found (and the record shows) that Mueller’s
medication was effective for treating her symptoms but that she nonetheless “went months at a
time without taking her medications or seeing Dr. Maitra” and usually did so “without any
adverse consequences.” This evidence, along with the evidence discussed above, substantially
supports the conclusion that Mueller’s condition, even if episodic, was not severe.
Hardaway v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs., 823 F.2d 922, 927 (6th Cir. 1987) (per curiam).
Accordingly, we AFFIRM the district court’s judgment.
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