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Chorak v. Barnhart

May 7, 2008

MELANIE CHORAK, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JO ANNE B BARNHART, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Irma E. Gonzalez, Chief Judge United States District Court

ORDER: (1) DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; (Doc. No. 13) and (2) GRANTING DEFENDANT'S CROSS-MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT. (Doc. No. 19.)

Plaintiff Melanie Chorak, proceeding by and through counsel, has filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision denying her application for Social Security Disability Benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act. Plaintiff moves the Court for summary judgment reversing the Commissioner's decision and ordering an award of benefits. (Doc. No. 13.) The Commissioner has filed a cross-motion for summary judgment, asking the Court to affirm the denial of benefits. (Doc. No. 19.) These motions are appropriate for submission on the papers and without oral argument pursuant to Local Rule 7.1(d)(1). Upon review, for the reasons explained below, Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is DENIED and the Commissioner's cross-motion is GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

Procedural History

Plaintiff applied for Disability Insurance Benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act on January 25, 2005. (Administrative Record Transcript ("Tr.") at 10.) The Social Security Administration denied plaintiff's application initially and upon reconsideration. At plaintiff's request, an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") held a hearing on February 7, 2006. (Id. at 10.) On May 16, 2006, ALJ Eve B. Godfrey issued an unfavorable written decision finding plaintiff was not disabled. (Id. at 10-18.)

Plaintiff requested review by the Appeals Council of the ALJ's decision. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on July 26, 2006. (Id. at 3.) Plaintiff filed this action for judicial review on September 22, 2006.

Factual Background

Plaintiff is a 37-year-old woman with a college education and past relevant work as a receptionist, stock clerk and telephone operator. (Tr. at 11.) She alleges a disability due to major depression, Asperger's syndrome, and a learning disorder. (Id.) Plaintiff has not engaged in any gainful activity since January 1, 2004, the alleged onset date of her disability. (Id.)

Plaintiff's history of depression dates back to November 2003, when she began treatment at County Mental Health and attending counseling through her church. Her "Global Assessment of Functioning" (GAF)*fn1 at that time was about 60. In December of 2003, plaintiff reported increasing depression and inability to sleep. Her doctors prescribed the drug Effexor and plaintiff reported in February of 2004 she was sleeping better. In June of 2004, plaintiff reported feeling much better and much less anxious. In December of 2004, she reported increased depression. In July of 2005, her anxiety was resolved and her GAF was assessed at about 50. Dr. Stephanie Buchert treated plaintiff on November 3, 2005. She assessed her GAF at that time as about 50.

Dr. Buchert submitted a Mental Residual Functional Capacity Questionnaire dated January 24, 2006 to the ALJ. Dr. Buchert reported plaintiff's limitations are moderate to severe and plaintiff is expected to be absent more than four days a month due to her condition.

Dr. Romualdo R. Rodriguez, M.D. evaluated plaintiff on August 27, 2005. Dr. Rodriguez diagnosed plaintiff with a dysthymic disorder and ADHD, inattentive type. He assessed her GAF at about 60. Dr. Rodriguez reported plaintiff is currently able to understand, remember and carry out simple instructions or detailed and complex instructions. Dr. Rodriguez identified slight limitations on plaintiff's ability to relate and interact in the workplace, moderate limitations on her ability to concentrate, and slight limitations on her abilities to complete daily activities, adapt to stress, and maintain regular attendance at work.

While plaintiff reported Asperger's syndrome and a learning disorder, she offered no evidence of a diagnosis of either condition.

DISCUSSION

Standard of ...


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