Naomi Lynn Sheaffer v. Carolyn W Colvin

Filing 16

MEMORANDUM AND OPINION by Magistrate Judge Victor B. Kenton. This 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 and thismatter will 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 NAOMI LYNN SHEAFFER, 12 13 14 Plaintiff, v. 15 CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, 16 Defendant. ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) No. ED CV 13-00724-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 considered 2 Plaintiff’s ability to work. 3 the treating physician’s opinion regarding (JS at 2-3.) 4 5 This Memorandum Opinion will constitute the Court’s findings of 6 fact and conclusions of law. After reviewing the matter, the Court 7 concludes that the decision of the Commissioner must be affirmed. 8 9 I 10 THE ALJ PROPERLY CONSIDERED OPINION OF TREATING PHYSICIAN DR. HUDSON 11 Following a hearing before the ALJ, an unfavorable Decision was 12 issued on March 19, 2012. (AR 18-29.) The ALJ determined that 13 Plaintiff’s residual functional capacity (“RFC”) restricted her from 14 contact with the public; limited her to performing simple repetitive 15 tasks; and limited her to having frequent contact with coworkers and 16 supervisors. (AR 23.) 17 In evaluating the evidence and determining Plaintiff’s RFC, the 18 ALJ considered evidence in the record including the opinion of 19 Plaintiff’s treating psychiatrist, Dr. Hudson. (AR 26, 359.) 20 Plaintiff’s position that the ALJ improperly and inadequately rejected 21 Dr. Hudson’s opinion, contained in a letter to the Department of 22 Social Services dated February 24, 2012. (AR 359.) 23 indicated that Dr. Hudson has been Plaintiff’s treating psychiatrist 24 since June 12, 2006. It contains a diagnosis and a recitation of the 25 psychotropic drugs which Plaintiff was taking as of the time of the 26 letter. 27 been 28 hospitalized four times since 2005 for “exacerbation of psychiatric It is That letter In part, Dr. Hudson’s letter indicates that Plaintiff has compliant with all treatment 2 in the clinic, but has been 1 symptoms, ...” 2 includes severely limited concentration and attention and that she 3 becomes easily agitated, has a limited ability to handle even the most 4 mild everyday stressors, has poor social interactions, is socially 5 withdrawn with poor capacity to interact appropriately with family, 6 friends, and the general public. (Id.) Dr. Hudson thus concludes that 7 Plaintiff’s chronic condition prevents her from performing any type of 8 work and also severely affects her ability to perform daily functions 9 due to her poor concentration, poor memory, mood swings, agitation, 10 Dr. Hudson assessed that Plaintiff’s dysfunction depressed mood, racing thought, paranoia, and irritability. (Id.) 11 The ALJ considered and determined to give little weight to this 12 opinion because 13 inadequately supported by clinical findings.” (AR 26.) 14 found 15 Commissioner as to disability; and that Dr. Hudson’s letter was 16 primarily based upon Plaintiff’s subjective complaints “but did not 17 provide 18 support the functional assessment.” (Id.) 19 Hudson’s opinion is “inconsistent with the treatment records that show 20 the 21 medications.” (Id., citing Exhibit C14F at 8-14.) 22 indicated 23 findings from mental status examinations. that it Dr. Hudson medically claimant’s that was found had acceptable mental Dr. state Hudson’s to be “brief, provided clinical was opinions or The was and The ALJ also reserved diagnostic stabilized opinion conclusory, to findings the to ALJ found that Dr. with adherence The A L J contradicted by to a l s o benign 24 The ALJ noted that the RFC as determined comports with the 25 opinions of various psychological practitioners which found that when 26 Plaintiff is compliant with her psychotropic medications, she has 27 minimal psychiatric symptoms. (AR 26.) 28 While the opinion of a treating physician is generally accorded 3 1 the most weight, an ALJ is free to depreciate or even ignore it based 2 on evidence in the record. 3 opinion if it is brief, conclusory, and inadequately supported by 4 clinical evidence. 5 2002). 6 Plaintiff’s treating psychiatrist for a substantial period of time, 7 nevertheless, the opinion she rendered in her short letter is in fact 8 brief and conclusory, and cites no clinical evidence. Here, As one reason, an ALJ may reject an Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 957 (9th Cir. although Dr. Hudson indicates that she has been 9 The ALJ went beyond this factor as a basis to reject Dr. Hudson’s 10 opinion. In detail, she pointed out that the medical records indicate 11 that Plaintiff’s psychiatric symptoms were controlled when she was 12 compliant with her medication treatment and that she did not exhibit 13 significant mental impairment while properly treating. (AR 25-27.) 14 The records cited by the ALJ in fact corroborate this conclusion. (See 15 AR at 325-332.) 16 office visits indicates that she in fact did not display symptoms of 17 mental impairment from a bipolar disorder when she was compliant with 18 her medications. 19 span a calendar period from March 2010 through September 2011, a 20 period of approximately 18 months. 21 Plaintiff admitted to Dr. Hudson that in October 2010 she had been 22 noncompliant with her medication. (AR 25, 273.) 23 detracts from the credibility of Dr. Hudson’s statement in her 24 February 24, 2012 letter to the Department of Social Services 25 Plaintiff has been compliant with all treatment in the clinic. Plaintiff’s own subjective reporting during these These reports of improvement and stable functioning Moreover, the ALJ noted that This fact squarely that 26 Some of the hospitalizations were correlated with Plaintiff going 27 off her medications, and upon discharge from these hospitalizations, 28 when Plaintiff was medicated, her psychiatric symptoms had dissipated. 4 1 (AR 277, 340, 347, 353.) 2 With regard to her activities of daily living (“ADL”), while 3 Plaintiff contends in this litigation that these are not relevant as 4 transferable to work functions, nevertheless, because of the limited 5 RFC which provided that Plaintiff would only be capable of performing 6 simple repetitive tasks and having no contact with the public, the 7 ALJ’s consideration of Plaintiff’s ADLs, and her conclusion that they 8 are inconsistent with an inability to perform work within Plaintiff’s 9 RFC, are proper considerations. 10 The ALJ was justified in giving weight to the opinions of four 11 State Agency reviewing psychiatrists who reviewed the evidence and 12 opined that Plaintiff could perform non-public, non-detailed unskilled 13 work. (AR 26, 170-180, 181-183, 184-185, 186-187, 283-286, 287-300, 14 301-302.) 15 For the foregoing reasons, the Court concludes that the ALJ did 16 not improperly reject or depreciate Dr. Hudson’s opinion, and did 17 provide specific and legitimate reasons in the Decision to support the 18 evaluation. 19 issue. 20 21 22 Thus, the Court does not find merit in Plaintiff’s sole The final decision of the Commissioner will be affirmed, and this matter will be dismissed with prejudice. IT IS SO ORDERED. 23 24 25 DATED: January 9, 2014 /s/ VICTOR B. KENTON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 26 27 28 5

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