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Hutson v. Astrue

May 8, 2009

BEVERLY ANN HUTSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: VICTOR B. Kenton United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

(Social Security Case)

This matter is before the Court for review of the decision by the Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff's application for disability benefits. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(c), the parties have consented that the case may be handled by the Magistrate Judge. The action arises under 42 U.S.C. §405(g), which authorizes the Court to enter judgment upon the pleadings and transcript of the record before the Commissioner. The parties have filed the Joint Stipulation ("JS"), and the Commissioner has filed the certified Administrative Record ("AR").

Plaintiff raises the following issues:

1. Whether the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") properly considered the treating psychiatrist's opinion;

2. Whether the ALJ properly developed the record;

3. Whether the ALJ properly considered the lay witness statements by Plaintiff's husband;

4. Whether the ALJ properly represented the evidence regarding Plaintiff's "decompensation;"

5. Whether the ALJ properly represented the evidence regarding the severity of Plaintiff's mental impairments.

(JS at 2-3.)

This Memorandum Opinion will constitute the Court's findings of fact and conclusions of law. After reviewing the matter, the Court concludes that the decision of the Commissioner must be affirmed.

I. THE ALJ PROPERLY ADDRESSED THE ISSUE OF PLAINTIFF'S ASSERTED MENTAL IMPAIRMENT

Plaintiff's Issues 1, 2, and 5 each address whether the ALJ properly assessed Plaintiff's asserted mental impairment. Issue No. 1 specifically asks whether the ALJ properly considered the opinion of Plaintiff's treating psychiatrist. Issue No. 2 constitutes Plaintiff's contention that the ALJ failed to develop the record with regard to additional records from her psychologist, Dr. Jackson. Issue No. 5 asserts, generally, that the ALJ did not properly address the severity of Plaintiff's mental impairments.

The ALJ's decision (AR 8-14) devotes a page and a half to the assessment of Plaintiff's asserted mental impairment. (AR 11-12.) The ALJ first summarized the results of a complete psychiatric evaluation ("CE") performed on January 15, 2007 at the request of the Department of Social Security by Dr. Smith. (AR 11, 358-364.) As the ALJ noted, the examiner agreed with Plaintiff that her depressive symptoms are secondary to her altered life and her medical issues, and further assessed that there were only minor problems with regard to Plaintiff's mental status evaluation. As the ALJ noted, the CE concluded that Plaintiff was not seriously impaired. (Id.)

The ALJ next noted that Plaintiff began counseling with Dr. Jackson, a clinical psychologist, in July 2007. (AR 11, 442.) Then, Plaintiff began seeing a psychiatrist, Dr. Ohiaeri, in September 2007, and in the decision, the ALJ summarized Dr. Ohiaeri's conclusions, noting that the psychiatrist introduced medications and noted improvement with results representative of mild to moderate symptoms. (AR 11, 444-450.)

The ALJ noted that psychological reviewers at previous levels of adjudication concluded that Plaintiff's mental ...


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