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Arellano v. Astrue

March 13, 2009

TERESA ARELLANO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ralph Zarefsky United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff asserts five errors in the Administrative Law Judge's decision denying her application for Title II disability benefits, but four of those five hinge on one contention, that the Administrative Law Judge wrongly assessed the perspective of the consulting psychiatrist. The Administrative Law Judge found that Plaintiff suffered from a variety of physical impairments, but he found no severe impairment before Plaintiff's disability insurance expired in March 1999. [AR 468] When he evaluated Plaintiff's mental capacity, he stated that his assessment was not inconsistent with that of the consulting psychiatrist Dr. Morton Kurland. [AR 467] This is the primary focus of this case.

Dr. Kurland evaluated Plaintiff on October 4, 2000, finding in part as follows:

It would seem that this woman believes that she is incapable of any kind of productive activity. It is difficult to ascertain, however, whether her inability to function is related to her alleged depression or whether it is related to her inability to understand things and to focus things and to even understand the language, even though she told me she has been living in the United States for thirty-five years since she was fifteen years old and still hasn't been able to fathom the complexities of the English language.

1) She appears to have difficulty doing any kind of detailed or complex tasks and I wouldn't think that this would change or has changed in many years.

2) She might very well have difficulty maintaining regular attendance at anything because she was late for the appointment, she doesn't get up in the morning unless somebody awakens her.

3) It is hard for her to be consistent in any way.

4) She would probably require somebody to tell her what to do in even simple tasks.

5) I doubt if she could complete a normal work day or a work week without complaining about her back and her shoulder pain which in some stretched way are her psychiatric problems.

6) She probably can't understand instructions unless given in Spanish.

7) I think she does interact with the public and some other people reasonably well, of course assuming she understands them in her own language.

8) I doubt that she could deal with any kind of stress in any meaningful way.

[AR 247-48] Dr. Kurland went on to say that "[h]er mood or affect appeared to be somewhat flattened, but did not appear to be overwhelming or even depressed. [AR 248] He diagnosed her with "dsythymia, moderate, untreated," referencing category 300.4 from the DIAGNOSTIC AND STATISTICAL MANUAL OF MENTAL DISORDERS (DSM-IV). [AR 249]

The Administrative Law Judge said that "regarding the claimant's allegations of depression" Dr. Kurland's opinion was not inconsistent with his own findings. Noting that Plaintiff must have become disabled before March 31, 1999 in order to receive benefits, the Administrative Law Judge stated that Plaintiff acknowledged that she did not begin to have "significant symptoms of depression" until after she had an hysterectomy in 2000. This, he further found, was consistent with the ...


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