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Roberts v. Astrue

August 12, 2009

KEVIN ROBERTS, 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 physician's opinion regarding Plaintiff's mental impairments and GAF of 47;

2. Whether the ALJ properly considered the consultative examining psychiatrist's opinion regarding Plaintiff's mental limitations and GAF of 50;

3. Whether the ALJ properly considered the type, dosage, effectiveness and side effects of Plaintiff's medication; and

4. Whether the ALJ posed a complete hypothetical question to the vocational expert.

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 DID NOT COMMIT ERROR IN EVALUATING PLAINTIFF'S MENTAL IMPAIRMENTS

In his first issue, Plaintiff asserts that the ALJ improperly depreciated the mental health disability opinion offered by his treating psychiatrist, Dr. Chasuthipian, along with a Global Assessment of Functioning ("GAF") of 47.

At Step Two, the ALJ found that among Plaintiff's severe impairments are polysubstance abuse disorder, psychotic disorder, NOS, and anti-social personality disorder. (AR 12.) At Step Three, it was found that Plaintiff's impairments, including the substance abuse disorders, meet various Listings, including §§12.03, 12.08 and 12.09.*fn1 (AR 12-13.) The ALJ found, however, that if Plaintiff stopped his substance abuse, his remaining limitations would not meet any of the Listings. It was further found that if Plaintiff stopped his substance abuse, he would have mild restrictions in activities of daily living ("ADL"); mild to moderate difficulties with social functioning; mild difficulties with concentration, persistence or pace; and no episodes of decompensation. (AR 13.)

The ALJ further found that if Plaintiff stopped his substance use, he would have the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels with the following non-exertional limitations: simple, four to five step instructions in an object oriented setting involving no safety operation and no operation of hazardous machinery. (AR 14.)

The ALJ's review of the records indicated that Plaintiff was incarcerated in 2004 on a charge of drug possession, with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, paranoid, chronic and that his symptoms, primarily auditory hallucinations, were controlled with medication. (AR 14.) After his parole in early 2005, Plaintiff's GAF was 75, and then 60, although in November 2005, the ALJ noted that Plaintiff reported use of amphetamines and marijuana and also an old prescription rather than his prescribed medication. This drug use was paralleled with an increase in auditory hallucinations and paranoid ideation. (AR 15, citing AR 323.) It was further noted that when Plaintiff was seen at the San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health, he admitted to drug abuse as recently as October 2007 with increased auditory hallucinations and paranoid delusions. He reported ...


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