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Roach v. Astrue

August 5, 2009

STEPHANIE ROACH, 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 Stephanie Roach filed a complaint on October 21, 2008, seeking review of the Commissioner's decision denying her application for disability benefits. On May 18, 2009, the Commissioner answered the complaint, and the parties filed a joint stipulation on May 29, 2009.

BACKGROUND

I.

On June 9, 2006, plaintiff applied for disability benefits under the Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") program of Title XVI of the Social Security Act ("Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 1382(a), claiming an inability to work since January 1, 2003, due to depression and constant pain. Certified Administrative Record ("A.R.") 8, 111. The plaintiff's application was denied on December 28, 2006. A.R. 40-44. The plaintiff then requested an administrative hearing, which was held before Administrative Law Judge Mary L. Everstine ("the ALJ") on June 10, 2008. A.R. 24-38, 47. On July 25, 2008, the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff is not disabled. A.R. 5-13. The plaintiff appealed this decision to the Appeals Council, which denied review on September 8, 2008. A.R. 1-4.

II.

The plaintiff, who was born on March 16, 1963, is currently 46 years old. A.R. 26. She is a high school graduate, has been trained as a certified nurse's assistant and a medical assistant, and has previously worked as a certified nursing assistant, waitress and server. A.R. 27, 83-90, 112, 115-16, 118-27.

On November 30, 2005, plaintiff was prescribed Elavil*fn1 at the SEP Medical Clinic. A.R. 159-60. On July 6, 2006,*fn2 Afshin Akhavan, D.O., examined plaintiff, diagnosed her with depression and insomnia, and prescribed Elavil. A.R. 191. On August 4, 2006, Dr. Akhavan opined plaintiff was temporarily totally disabled through August 30, 2006, due to her depression and other conditions. A.R. 189. Dr. Akhavan reexamined plaintiff on August 7, 2006, and prescribed Zoloft*fn3 for her. A.R. 190, 239. On October 26, 2006, Dr. Akhavan prescribed Ambien*fn4 for plaintiff. A.R. 238.

On November 18, 2006, Jason H. Yang, M.D., a psychiatrist, examined plaintiff, diagnosed her with an unspecified depressive disorder, and determined plaintiff's Global Assessment of Functioning ("GAF") was 66.*fn5 A.R. 193-96. Dr. Yang found there was no evidence of cognitive defects, perceptual disturbances or delusional disorders on mental status examination, A.R. 196, and he opined:

[Plaintiff] is able to focus attention adequately. She is able to follow one and two part instructions. [She] can adequately remember and complete simple and complex tasks. She is able to tolerate the stress inherent in the work environment, maintain regular attendances, and work without supervision. In addition, she was able to interact appropriately with myself and staff, and I imagine that she would be able to interact appropriately with supervisors, co-workers, and the public in the workplace.

Id.

On June 5, 2007, plaintiff was examined at the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health's Kedren Community Mental Health Center ("DMH"),*fn6 diagnosed as having a major depressive disorder with psychotic features, and her GAF was determined to be 47.*fn7 A.R. 224-28. Upon mental status examination, it was found plaintiff's remote memory was impaired; she was dysphoric, anxious, isolated and withdrawn; had a sad affect and excessive crying; she had paranoid delusions and visual hallucinations; and her judgment was moderately impaired, her insight was minimally impaired, and she exhibited antisocial behavior. A.R. 227. The plaintiff received mental health treatment at this facility, including individual therapy and psychiatric medication, until September 14, 2007. A.R. 229, 240-46.

DISCUSSION

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