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Giles v. Astrue

August 11, 2009


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


Plaintiff Mary V. Giles filed a complaint on March 6, 2008, seeking review of the Commissioner's decision denying her application for disability benefits, and on July 24, 2008, the Commissioner answered the complaint. The parties filed a joint stipulation on September 11, 2008.



On May 25, 2005 (protective filing date), plaintiff applied for disability benefits under the Supplemental Security Income program of Title XVI of the Social Security Act ("the Act"), claiming an inability to work since January 1, 2000, due to fibromyalgia and eye degeneration.*fn1 Certified Administrative Record ("A.R.") 11, 99-101, 109. The plaintiff's application was initially denied on July 8, 2005, and was again denied following reconsideration on October 21, 2005. A.R. 70-82. The plaintiff then requested an administrative hearing, which was held on May 23 and October 19, 2007, before Administrative Law Judge Thomas J. Gaye ("the ALJ"). A.R. 68-69, 537-70. On November 21, 2007, the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff is not disabled. A.R. 8-18. The plaintiff appealed this decision to the Appeals Council, which denied review on February 6, 2008. A.R. 4-7.


The plaintiff was born on June 23, 1959, and is currently 50 years old. A.R. 99, 102. She is a high school graduate who has attended two years of college, has trained as a medical assistant and an investigative assistant, and has previously worked as a sales associate, care taker, data entry operator and sales clerk. A.R. 110-11, 113, 115-28, 141-42, 145.

Between November 26, 2006, and September 9, 2007, the Riverside County Department of Mental Health ("DMH") provided plaintiff with mental health treatment, including psychotherapy and medication.*fn2

A.R. 380-429, 467-92. On December 8, 2006, Lisa Schmid, M.D., examined plaintiff, found she had auditory and visual hallucinations and "death wishes," among other symptoms, diagnosed plaintiff with severe, recurrent major depression, rule out schizophrenia, determined plaintiff's Global Assessment of Functioning ("GAF") was 20,*fn3 and prescribed plaintiff Paxil*fn4 and Risperdal.*fn5 A.R. 483, 490-91. On or about December 15, 2006, Katrina Ptucha, M.S., Ph.D. Intern, administered the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory-II to plaintiff, and diagnosed plaintiff with recurrent moderate major depression and an unspecified personality disorder, with schizoid and avoidant traits. A.R. 486-87. Ms. Ptucha opined:

[Plaintiff's] responses [to the test] were valid but guarded. She likely under-reports psychological symptoms due to either defensiveness, fear of disapproval or a lack of insight and introspection. She is not attempting to place herself in a favorable light, and she tends to depreciate or devalue herself. [¶] . . . [Plaintiff] likely exhibits some dependent behavior and will react to stress by withdrawing. She shows a lack of initiative, has a low self-concept, and views herself as weak, inadequate, and ineffectual. She tends to be socially alienated, is pervasively anxious, and may experience a state of chronic but moderate psychic stress. She is probably most comfortable when she is alone. Around others, she is passive, docile, respectful, and conforming. She is overly sensitive to rejection and hence views social situations as a source of anxiety. She is prone to separation anxiety and depression. Behaviorally, she is rigid, conscientious, polite, organized, meticulous, punctual, and often perfectionistic.

A.R. 487. On December 27, 2006, plaintiff took the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, 3rd edition, scoring a full scale IQ of 90, which is in the average range. A.R. 484-85. Plaintiff performed better on tasks emphasizing her visual-motor processing speed than those emphasizing her nonverbal reasoning ability, and she scored much better on tasks that depend on verbal knowledge rather than on solving problems that depend on short-term auditory memory. A.R. 485.

On January 2, 2007, plaintiff experienced auditory hallucinations telling her it was unsafe to ride in a car with her brother because he would try to kill her, and Ms. Ptucha noted plaintiff was having "difficulty differentiating the truth/reality from what the voices say." A.R. 479. On January 30, 2007, after plaintiff had voiced concerns about the side effects of her medication, Dr. Schmid switched plaintiff's medications to Lexapro*fn6 and Seroquel.*fn7 A.R. 468-70. On February 28, 2007, Dr. Schmid noted plaintiff has poor focus and concentration and her medication causes sedation, slow processing and dizziness, and Dr. Schmid opined plaintiff is permanently disabled.

A.R. 368.

Between March 30 and April 3, 2007, plaintiff was involuntarily hospitalized at Riverside County Regional Medical Center ("RCRMC") under California Welfare & Institutions Code ("W.I.C.") § 5150,*fn8 after stating she ...

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