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Morgan v. Astrue

November 30, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary S. Austin United States Magistrate Judge


(Doc. 21)


Plaintiff Connie F. Morgan ("Plaintiff") seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying her application for disability insurance benefits pursuant to Title XVI of the Social Security Act. The matter is currently before the Court on the parties' briefs, which were submitted, without oral argument, to the Honorable Gary S. Austin, United States Magistrate Judge.*fn1


Plaintiff filed her initial application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") on March 26, 2004, alleging disability since March 1, 2003. AR 58-62. Her application was denied initially on December 3, 2004, and on reconsideration on April 25, 2005. A.R. 28-32; 34-38. Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). AR 7. ALJ Bert C. Hoffman, Jr. held a hearing on October 31, 2006, and denied benefits on February 12, 2007. AR 11-18; 364-392. On May 22, 2008, the Appeals Council denied review. AR 4-6.

Hearing Testimony

ALJ Hoffman held a hearing on October 31, 2006, in Fresno, California. AR 366. Plaintiff appeared with her attorney, Ms. Melissa Proudian. AR 366. At the time of the hearing, Plaintiff was twenty eight years old. She was five feet nine inches tall and weighed three hundred and fifty pounds. AR 367. Her normal weight is one hundred and forty-five pounds, however, she had recently gained weight due to the side effects of her medications. AR 367. Plaintiff is divorced and does not have any children. AR 368. She is currently living with her aunt and her mother. AR 386. Plaintiff has completed the ninth grade. AR 370. She attempted to obtain a GED but was unsuccessful. AR 370.

Plaintiff worked at McDonalds in May 2001 for approximately three months but stopped working because she was unable to concentrate. She last worked for her cousin in 2003 and 2004 delivering food but was fired when she got into a fight with another driver. AR 372. In 2003, Plaintiff was also convicted of forgery and was incarcerated for seven months in jail. AR 375; 388. Plaintiff was taking drugs when she was fired, as well as at the time of her conviction. AR 372; 375. Plaintiff last took drugs in October 2005. AR 372. Her drug of choice is crack cocaine, however she has also used methamphetamine. AR 384; 387.

Plaintiff is unable to work currently because she suffers from anxiety attacks and she has gotten violent with others. AR 373. She has been receiving mental health treatment and was diagnosed with massive depression, post traumatic stress disorder, and bipolar disorder with psychotic features. AR 373. She is being treated by Dr. Ghermay where she was seen once every two or three months. AR 373. She currently takes Seroquel, Neurontin, and Paxil. AR 374. When taking the medications, Plaintiff is unable to function because the medications make her dizzy and drowsy. AR 374. She sleeps all day and all night. AR 374. Plaintiff stated that the medications help her with most of her symptoms because by sleeping most of the day she doesn't fight with people. AR 375. However, Plaintiff can't function without her medications. AR 374. If she does not take her medications, her outbursts become more severe. AR 386. At times, she does not take her medications because she runs out and it is hard to get to see the doctor. AR 387. It is also difficult to fill her prescriptions because she does not have health insurance and it is hard to find a pharmacy that will accept county insurance. AR 387.

Plaintiff suffers from violent outbursts. AR 376. She gets angry and loses control when people talk to her in a demanding voice or with an attitude. AR 384-385. Plaintiff was sent home to California from her aunt's house in Mississippi because she got into a fight with her cousin. AR 385. She was not taking her medication at the time. AR 385. Her last violent outburst occurred approximately one week ago when she got into a fistfight with her sister. AR 376.

Plaintiff tries to avoid people by isolating herself. AR 376. For the past ten years, she grocery shops at night to avoid crowds. AR 376-377. She currently has no friends but has had friends in the past. AR 377. Most of her previous friends were drug addicts so she no longer associates with them. AR 377. However, Plaintiff attends hockey games. AR 377. She has seasons tickets after winning them in a contest. AR 377-378. She also enjoys reading and doing crossword puzzles. AR 383.

Plaintiff is depressed four out of seven days a week. AR 379. When she is depressed her mind races and she is unable to concentrate. AR 383. She gets very tired and does not want to do anything. AR 380. She can only concentrate for approximately forty-five minutes and then she loses interest. AR 383. She has thoughts of suicide at least three to four times a month. AR 381. On November 23, 2005, she was hospitalized for one night when she tried to kill herself because an on-line relationship did not work out. AR 381-382. Her doctor does not want her to live alone because of her suicidal tendencies. AR 389.

Plaintiff does dishes about eighty percent of the time but her mother does her laundry because Plaintiff does not have the patience. AR 380. Plaintiff is able to drive a car and has a car at her disposal but only drives once a week ...

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