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Jimenez v. Astrue

February 23, 2009

EDUARDO JIMENEZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rosalyn M. Chapman United States Magistrate Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Eduardo Jimenez filed a complaint on March 12, 2008, seeking review of the Commissioner's decision denying his applications for disability benefits. On August 26, 2008, the Commissioner answered the complaint, and the parties filed a joint stipulation on September 30, 2008.

BACKGROUND

I.

On June 20, 2002, plaintiff applied for disability benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act ("Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 423, claiming an inability to work since August 15, 2000, due to right shoulder, lower back and right knee injuries. Certified Administrative Record ("A.R.") 86-88, 90. The plaintiff's application was initially denied on September 5, 2002, and was denied again on December 27, 2002, following reconsideration. A.R. 66-74. The plaintiff then requested an administrative hearing, which was held on January 12, 2004, before Administrative Law Judge Peggy M. Zirlin ("the ALJ"). A.R. 75, 2344-67. On April 22, 2004, the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff is not disabled. A.R. 606-17, 1718-29. The plaintiff appealed this decision to the Appeals Council, which remanded the matter to the ALJ on March 11, 2005.*fn1 A.R. 618-35, 1684.

On March 13, 2007, the ALJ held a new administrative hearing, which considered both the Title II and SSI applications. A.R. 27, 2368-97. On April 20, 2007, the ALJ again found plaintiff is not disabled. A.R. 24-49, 1685-1710, 1730-55. The plaintiff appealed this decision to the Appeals Council, which denied review on December 18, 2007. A.R. 14-22, 1682-83.

II.

The plaintiff, who was born on October 12, 1956, is currently 52 years old. A.R. 86, 1562. He has a GED, and has previously worked in a warehouse and as a butcher. A.R. 91, 96.

On or about August 15, 2000, plaintiff injured himself at work, hurting his back and legs.*fn2 A.R. 249, 283. On April 5, 2002, Thomas A. Curtis, M.D., a psychiatrist, examined plaintiff, psychologically tested him, diagnosed him as having an unspecified depressive disorder with anxiety and psychological factors affecting medical condition, and found plaintiff was temporarily totally disabled. A.R. 281-93, 459-73, 552-64.*fn3 Plaintiff continued to receive treatment from Dr. Curtis, including psychotherapy and medication. A.R. 672, 875, 1002-42, 2168-79.

On January 13, 2004, Dr. Curtis opined plaintiff remained temporarily totally disabled, he would likely be precluded from returning to his pre-injury occupation due to his psychiatric condition, and he remained too depressed and anxious to concentrate on vocational rehabilitation. A.R. 550-51, 1038-39. On February 24, 2004, Dr. Curtis opined plaintiff had "marked" impairment in his ability to understand, remember, and carry out short, simple instructions, and "extreme" limitations in his ability to: understand, remember, and carry out detailed instructions; make judgments on simple work-related decisions; interact appropriately with the public, supervisors, and co-workers; respond appropriately to work pressures in a usual work setting; and respond appropriately to changes in a routine work setting.*fn4 A.R. 565-66, 857-58. Dr. Curtis further found plaintiff continued to experience depression and anxiety, as well as lack of concentration and attention and memory impairment. A.R. 565, 857. Dr. Curtis determined plaintiff was totally disabled since he could not tolerate the stress of a work environment, interact and communicate effectively, or make decisions. A.R. 566, 858.

On May 3, 2004, Dr. Curtis reexamined plaintiff and again conducted psychological testing, and determined plaintiff was permanent and stationary.*fn5 A.R. 666-94, 869-97. Dr. Curtis opined plaintiff had a "severe" impairment in his ability to comprehend and follow instructions, perform simple and repetitive tasks, maintain work pace, perform complex and varied tasks, relate to other people, influence people, make generalizations, evaluations, or decisions, and accept and carry out responsibility. A.R. 689-90, 892-93. Dr. Curtis also stated:

If [plaintiff] were to attempt any normal or regular work routine, his mental condition would likely rapidly worsen to the point of totally incapacitating impairment in all eight areas of emotional functioning [set forth above]. Under such conditions, his pain, insomnia, depression, frustration, agitation, fatigue, anxiety and psychogenic somatization would preclude employment on an indefinite basis. Because of extreme depressive mental disorder with loss of reality perception, [the plaintiff] would likely be precluded from competition in the labor market. There have been hallucinatory-like experiences, auditory hallucinations, psychotic anxieties, confusional mental states, paranoid ideation, somatic delusions, reality distortions and mental disorganization such that he could not be relied upon to consistently comprehend and follow instructions, perform routine duties, perform complex duties, and regularly get to work, stay at work and keep working on the job. There have been additional depressive psychiatric symptoms with emotional peculiarities and elements of interpersonal mistrust such that [plaintiff] could not be relied upon to normally relate to people and influence people on the job. He could not assume responsibility for direction, control or other management duties.

A.R. 688-89, 891-92.

On February 7, 2005, and February 12 and May 21, 2007, Dr. Curtis again determined plaintiff was permanent and stationary. A.R. 1146-47, 1526-27, 1940-41, 2167. On June 29, 2005, William W. Kaiser, Ph.D., a psychologist, opined plaintiff had "moderate"*fn6 limitations in his ability to understand and remember short, simple instructions; "marked" impairments in his ability to carry out short, simple instructions, make judgments on simple work-related decisions, interact appropriately with supervisors and co-workers, and respond appropriately to changes in a routine work setting; and "extreme" limitations in his ability to understand, remember, and carry out detailed instructions, interact appropriately with the public, and respond appropriately to work pressures in a usual work setting. A.R. 1372-74, 1413-15, 2181-83. Dr. Kaiser further ...


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