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Binger v. Astrue

August 31, 2009

TAMMY BINGER, 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 Tammy Binger filed a complaint on July 3, 2008, seeking review of the Commissioner's decision denying her application for disability benefits, and on November 12, 2008, the Commissioner answered the complaint. The parties filed a joint stipulation on April 7, 2009.

BACKGROUND

I.

On April 1, 2005, plaintiff applied for disability benefits under the Supplemental Security Income program of Title XVI of the Social Security Act ("the Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 1382(a), claiming an inability to work since June 28, 2003, due to a broken tail bone, ankle inflammation, sciatica, left leg numbness and adenomyosis. Certified Administrative Record ("A.R.") 80-82, 88. The plaintiff's application was initially denied on July 22, 2005, and was denied again on November 10, 2005, following reconsideration. A.R. 43-55. The plaintiff then requested an administrative hearing, which was held before Administrative Law Judge Lowell Fortune ("the ALJ") on February 9 and September 7, 2007. A.R. 42-42A, 420-96. On September 28, 2007, the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff is not disabled. A.R. 14-27. The plaintiff appealed this decision to the Appeals Council, which denied review on May 27, 2008. A.R. 4-6, 13.

II.

The plaintiff, who was born on March 9, 1960, is currently 49 years old. A.R. 80, 423. She has a ninth-grade education, and has previously worked as a waitress, stock clerk, and merchandiser. A.R. 89-90, 323, 423, 427-28, 437-38, 486-90.

Between October 13, 2005, and August 8, 2007, plaintiff received mental health treatment at the Riverside County Department of Mental Health ("DMH").*fn1 A.R. 211, 213, 260-318, 385-417. On October 13, 2005, plaintiff was diagnosed with an unspecified depressive disorder and a history of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and antisocial personality traits, and her Global Assessment of Functioning ("GAF") was determined to be 45.*fn2 A.R. 300, 304. On December 7, 2005, Coney Ebro, M.D., examined plaintiff, diagnosed her as having mixed bipolar disorder and intermittent explosive disorder, determined plaintiff's GAF was 50, and prescribed medication for plaintiff. A.R. 307.

On September 15, 2006, Dr. Ebro determined plaintiff has poor impulse control, is easily angered, has been isolated and withdrawn, and is afraid of hurting other people. A.R. 211. Dr. Ebro opined plaintiff cannot complete a forty-hour workweek without decompensating, and she cannot maintain a sustained level of concentration, sustain repetitive tasks for an extended period, adapt to new or stressful situations, or interact appropriately with family, strangers, or co-workers, although she can interact appropriately with supervisors and authority figures. Id.

On February 1, 2007, Dr. Ebro found plaintiff has severe angry outbursts and can be violent and hurt other people, but her aggressive behavior is controlled with medication. A.R. 213. Dr. Ebro again concluded plaintiff cannot complete a forty-hour workweek without decompensating, and she cannot maintain a sustained level of concentration, sustain repetitive tasks for an extended period, or adapt to new or stressful situations. Id.

On May 24, 2007, Oluwafemi Adeyemo, M.D., a psychiatrist, examined plaintiff and diagnosed her as having a recurrent severe major depressive disorder with psychotic features, an unspecified impulse control disorder, rule out dysthymic disorder and bipolar disorder with psychotic features, and determined plaintiff's GAF was 55.*fn3 A.R. 322-28. Dr. Adeyemo opined:

[plaintiff] does not appear to have any restrictions of daily activities at home but she has difficulty maintaining social functioning outside her home environment. She does not appear to have significant difficulties with concentration and is able to understand, retain and execute simple and complex instructions. She does not have [a] history of emotional deterioration in a work environment. [She] may have mild to moderate difficulties interacting with co-workers and supervisors but should be able to respond appropriately to usual work situations with accommodations for her current symptoms (basically limiting her interaction with co-workers and supervisors). She . . . appears to have moderate to mild difficulties interacting with the public but her symptoms should improve with optimal treatment. There was no obvious evidence of ongoing substance abuse.

A.R. 324. Dr. Adeyemo further opined plaintiff's ability to understand, remember, and carry out instructions is not affected by her impairment, but she has: a "marked "limitation in her ability to interact appropriately with the public; "moderate" limitations in her ability to respond appropriately to usual work situations and to changes in a routine work setting; and ...


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