Jason N Neri v. Michael J Astrue

Filing 17

MEMORANDUM AND OPINION by Magistrate Judge Victor B. KentonThis Memorandum Opinion will constitute the Courts findings of fact and conclusions of law. After reviewing the matter, the Court concludes that the decision of the Commissioner must be affirmed. The matterwill be dismissed with prejudice. (rh)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA WESTERN DIVISION 7 8 9 10 11 JASON M. NERI, 12 13 14 Plaintiff, v. 15 CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, 16 Defendant. ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) No. ED CV 13-00508-VBK MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER (Social Security Case) 17 18 This matter is before the Court for review of the decision by the 19 Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff’s application for 20 disability benefits. 21 consented that the case may be handled by the Magistrate Judge. 22 action arises under 42 U.S.C. §405(g), which authorizes the Court to 23 enter judgment upon the pleadings and transcript of the record before 24 the Commissioner. 25 (“JS”), and the Commissioner has filed the certified Administrative 26 Record (“AR”). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(c), the parties have The The parties have filed the Joint Stipulation 27 Plaintiff raises the following issues: 28 1. Whether the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) properly 1 2 considered the treating physician’s opinion. (JS at 2.) 3 4 This Memorandum Opinion will constitute the Court’s findings of 5 fact and conclusions of law. After reviewing the matter, the Court 6 concludes that the decision of the Commissioner must be affirmed. 7 8 I 9 THE ALJ PROPERLY CONSIDERED THE MEDICAL EVIDENCE, INCLUDING THE 10 11 OPINION OF A TREATING PHYSICIAN Plaintiff asserts that the ALJ failed to consider the opinion of 12 treating physician Dr. Prather, who completed a Mental Health 13 Narrative Report on February 8, 2011. (AR 760.) 14 Plaintiff in his portion of the JS, Dr. Prather’s report concludes 15 that Plaintiff suffers from numerous severe mental impairments which 16 affect his functioning. 17 report would indicate that Plaintiff is disabled. 18 the Court is to determine whether the ALJ properly considered Dr. 19 Prather’s report, which, in fact, he ultimately rejected on several 20 bases. (See AR 22.) 21 is that Dr. Prather utilized terms of art such as “disabled” and 22 “unable to work.” 23 not a dispositive reason to reject in its entirety a physician’s 24 opinion. 25 determine whether his companion statement, that the record does not 26 support Dr. Prather’s opinion, is supported by substantial evidence. 27 For the reasons to be stated, the Court concludes that it is so 28 supported. As summarized by Essentially, if accepted, Dr. Prather’s The question for One basis, which Plaintiff addresses in the JS, Plaintiff’s counsel correctly notes that this is The Court has carefully examined the ALJ’s Decision to 2 1 In determining Plaintiff’s mental residual functional capacity 2 (“MRFC”), the ALJ relied upon numerous discrete sources summarized and 3 cited in his Decision. 4 testifying Medical Expert (“ME”), Dr. Wells. 5 the evidence in the record, and his conclusions as to Plaintiff’s 6 mental functioning were distinct from those of Dr. Prather’s. 7 Wells indicated that Plaintiff’s only “real limitation would be 8 dealing with the public.” (AR 38.) First, the ALJ relied upon the opinion of the Dr. Wells had reviewed Dr. 9 The ALJ also substantially relied upon a consultative psychiatric 10 examination performed on January 14, 2010 by Dr. Abejuela. (AR 426- 11 433, 18-19.) 12 correlate with the extreme mental functional limitations assessed by 13 Dr. Prather. (See, AR at 432.) 14 Abejuela performed a thorough examination, and his conclusions in 15 numerous spheres are detailed. 16 As the ALJ noted, Dr. Abejuela’s conclusions did not Additional evidence It is apparent to the Court that Dr. supported the ALJ’s opinion and in 17 particular, his rejection of Dr. Prather’s conclusions. This evidence 18 includes various treatment records including July 1, 2010, where 19 Plaintiff was shown to have a full range of affect and normal thought 20 process, was oriented and alert, and was symptomatic but stable (AR 21 853); November 4, 2010, when Plaintiff “appeared to be stable, sober, 22 functioning well, paid attention, and participated in group topics;” 23 and other records which demonstrate that Plaintiff was functioning 24 within normal limits after a period when he was not using drugs. (See, 25 e.g., AR at 338, 571, 705, 708, 716, 829, 838, 856.)] 26 In addition to these sources, the ALJ relied on the opinions of 27 non-examining State Agency physicians, who also found that Plaintiff 28 had very limited restrictions in mental functioning. (See AR at 20, 3 1 citing reports of Drs. Smith and Masters from January 25, 2010 and 2 June 4, 2010, respectively.) 3 Finally, the ALJ considered opinion evidence of Mr. Wade, 4 Plaintiff’s friend, but rejected certain of Mr. Wade’s conclusions and 5 opinions because he is not a qualified mental health professional. 6 (See AR at 21-22.) 7 In sum, it is apparent that the ALJ did not simply reject Dr. 8 Prather’s opinion because Dr. Prather was purporting to cross over 9 into areas reserved to the Commissioner; rather, the ALJ concluded 10 that Dr. Prather’s opinions as to Plaintiff’s mental functioning were 11 extreme, and not in line with the opinions of examining and non- 12 examining physicians. 13 upon substantial evidence in the record in determining Plaintiff’s 14 mental residual functional capacity, and the Court finds no error. 15 Therefore, the decision of the ALJ will be affirmed and the matter 16 will be dismissed with prejudice. 17 The Court thus concludes that the ALJ relied IT IS SO ORDERED. 18 19 20 DATED: December 20, 2013 /s/ VICTOR B. KENTON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 4

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