Heather Mary Sheehan v. Andrew Saul

Filing 28

ORDER ACCEPTING FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE 25 by Judge Andre Birotte Jr. IT THEREFORE IS ORDERED that judgment be entered affirming the Commissioner's decision and dismissing this action with prejudice. (es)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 HEATHER MARY S., Plaintiff, 12 13 v. 14 ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, 15 Defendant. 16 ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) Case No. EDCV 19-1187-AB (JPR) ORDER ACCEPTING FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE 17 Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636, the Court has reviewed the 18 Complaint, Joint Stipulation, Administrative Record, and all 19 other records on file as well as the Report and Recommendation of 20 U.S. Magistrate Judge. 21 Objections to the R. & R., in which she mostly simply repeats 22 arguments from the Joint Stipulation. 23 to the Objections on March 19, 2021. 24 On March 9, 2021, Plaintiff filed Defendant filed a response Plaintiff reiterates that the ALJ allegedly erred in 25 evaluating psychiatrist Julie Wareham’s opinions. 26 2-4.) 27 discounted Dr. Wareham’s opinions as devoid of any discussion of 28 Plaintiff’s functional limitations, among other reasons. (See Objs. at As the Magistrate Judge found, however, the ALJ correctly 1 (R. & 1 R. at 21.) Plaintiff argues that “Dr. Wareham’s opinion 2 addressed Plaintiff’s specific ability to adhere to a work 3 schedule, maintain reliability, and complete work tasks in light 4 of her classic bipolar symptomology.” 5 749, 906).) 6 statement and treatment note cited that the stress of not being 7 able to support herself financially was “compromising her 8 emotional stability” (AR 749), her “stable periods [were] 9 frequently short lived due to continuing emotional swings” (AR (Objs. at 2 (citing AR But Dr. Wareham merely opined in the written 10 906), and she couldn’t “sustain even a parttime job” (id.). 11 Those general statements about Plaintiff’s emotional state and 12 the conclusory opinion of disability did not address specific 13 work functions, including the ability to adhere to a work 14 schedule, maintain reliability, or complete tasks. 15 The Magistrate Judge also correctly found that Plaintiff had 16 not challenged and therefore implicitly conceded as proper the 17 ALJ’s discounting of Dr. Wareham’s opinion because she acted as 18 an advocate. 19 this was not a proper basis for discounting the opinion because 20 nothing showed that it was “untruthful advocacy.” 21 (emphasis in original).) 22 is entitled to think a doctor’s opinion may be “untruthful” 23 precisely because the doctor is acting as an advocate — that is, 24 she has a bias. 25 1016, 1020 (9th Cir. 1992), the case relied on by the Magistrate 26 Judge (see R. & R. at 22), nothing indicated that the opinion of 27 the doctor who acted as an advocate for the plaintiff was 28 untruthful per se. (See R. & R. at 23.) Plaintiff now argues that (Objs. at 2-3 Plaintiff has things backwards. An ALJ In Matney ex rel. Matney v. Sullivan, 981 F.2d Rather, the ALJ properly discounted the 2 1 opinion because the doctor was “advocating” for the plaintiff. 2 Matney, 981 F.2d at 1020. 3 demonstrated that Dr. Wareham, too, had become an “advocate” for 4 Plaintiff; indeed, she admitted as much. 5 (citing AR 749).) 6 The undisputed evidence here (See R. & R. at 22-23 The Magistrate Judge did not err. And as she noted, the ALJ also properly discounted Dr. 7 Wareham’s opinion because it was “an overly conclusory blanket 8 statement with no objective medical findings in support.” 9 R. at 24 (citing AR 34).) (R. & Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in 10 “looking only within the four corners of Dr. Wareham’s opinion 11 . . . and failing to consider the longitudinal record.” 12 at 3.) 13 longitudinal record did not support Plaintiff’s being unable to 14 “sustain even a parttime job.” 15 The ALJ discussed this longitudinal record in the section 16 immediately preceding the discussion of the medical opinions. 17 (See AR 31-33.) 18 then repeated that lengthy discussion in discounting Dr. 19 Wareham’s opinion is not well taken. (Objs. But the Magistrate Judge correctly observed that the (R. & R. at 25 (citing AR 906).) Plaintiff’s argument that the ALJ should have 20 Plaintiff also objects that the ALJ erred in evaluating her 21 RFC and not further developing the record before formulating it. 22 (See Objs. at 4-5.) 23 inadequate about the record requiring such additional evidence, 24 as the Magistrate Judge noted. 25 Ruddock explicitly considered Plaintiff’s alcohol abuse (AR 111- 26 12), anxiety (id.), depression (AR 112), and “bipolar affective” 27 disorder (id.) and assessed functional limitations (AR 114-16, 28 131-32). But there was nothing ambiguous or (See R. & R. at 29-31.) Dr. Ruddock also reviewed at least some of Dr. 3 Dr. 1 Wareham’s records and Dr. Rathana-Nakintara’s examination report, 2 which contained a complete functional assessment. 3 05, 108-09, 112-13.) 4 was somewhat dated, Plaintiff’s mental conditions remained 5 relatively stable, as the Magistrate Judge observed. 6 R. at 30 (citing AR 60, 545-47, 837, 852, 885).) 7 (See AR 103- Although Dr. Rathana-Nakintara’s assessment (See R. & Plaintiff complains for the first time in her Objections 8 that the ALJ’s decision was “internally inconsistent” because it 9 both relied on Dr. Ruddock’s opinion and found that Plaintiff had 10 additional severe impairments not assessed by Dr. Ruddock. 11 (Objs. at 4-5.) 12 Ruddock’s opinion and meld those with information from other 13 evidence in the record to form the RFC. 14 374184, at *5 (July 2, 1996) (stating that Commissioner forms RFC 15 based on consideration of all relevant evidence in record); 20 16 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(3) (same); Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 466 17 F.3d 880, 883 (9th Cir. 2006) (same). 18 reliance on Dr. Ruddock’s opinion was unwarranted because her 19 condition had worsened is also unavailing because as previously 20 explained, Plaintiff’s mental-health issues remained relatively 21 stable. 22 necessary on this issue. 23 But the ALJ was free to accept portions of Dr. See SSR 96-8p, 1996 WL Plaintiff’s argument that (See AR 60, 545-47, 837, 852, 885.) Thus, remand is not Finally, any error in discounting the third-party statement 24 from Plaintiff’s mother was harmless. 25 found, the ALJ’s clear and convincing reasons for discounting 26 Plaintiff’s own testimony established a sufficient basis for 27 rejecting her mother’s similar statements. 28 (citing AR 31-33)); Valentine v. Comm’r Soc. Sec. Admin., 574 4 As the Magistrate Judge (See R. & R. at 33-34 1 F.3d 685, 694 (9th Cir. 2009); Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 2 1122 (9th Cir. 2012). 3 did for the first time in her reply, that the ALJ erred in 4 discounting Plaintiff’s statements (Objs. at 5), she has 5 forfeited that claim, as the Magistrate Judge observed (R. & R. 6 at 34 n.24). 7 And although Plaintiff now argues, as she Having reviewed de novo those portions of the R. & R. to 8 which Plaintiff objects, the Court accepts the findings and 9 recommendations of the Magistrate Judge. IT THEREFORE IS ORDERED 10 that judgment be entered affirming the Commissioner’s decision 11 and dismissing this action with prejudice. 12 13 14 DATED: __________________ April 28, 2021 ______________________________ ____________________ _ HON. ANDRÉ BIROTTE JR. N JR U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 5

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