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Emma v. Astrue

March 16, 2010

VERA J. EMMA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hayes, Judge

ORDER

The matter before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. # 13) and Defendant's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. # 16).

I. Background

A. Procedural History

On April 21, 2005, Plaintiff filed an application for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits ("SSDI"). (Doc. # 8 at 14). On June 3, 2005, Plaintiff's application was denied. (Id.) On April 14, 2006, Plaintiff's request for SSDI was denied on reconsideration. (Id.) Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), which took place on February 20, 2007. (Id.)

At the February 20, 2007 hearing, Plaintiff testified that she cannot work due to bipolar disorder, manifested as major depression; slow learning; sleep problems; and back pain resulting from several motor vehicle accidents. (Id. at 17). Plaintiff, who was born on March 3, 1971, alleges a disability onset date of October 9, 2004. (Id. at 14, 25).

On March 28, 2007, the ALJ issued an opinion denying Plaintiff's request for benefits. (Id. at 26.) On March 28, 2008, the Appeals Counsel denied Plaintiff's request for review. (Id. at 4). Hence, the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner").

On May 7, 2008, Plaintiff initiated this action seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's decision to deny Plaintiff's claim for benefits. (Doc. # 1).

On June 28, 2009, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. # 13). On September 2, 2009, Defendant filed a Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. # 16).

On January 22, 2010, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation. (Doc. # 20).*fn1 The Magistrate Judge recommended that Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment be denied and Defendant's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment be granted.

On February 8, 2010, Plaintiff filed objections to the Report and Recommendation. (Doc. # 21).

B. Medical Evidence in the Administrative Record

The following is a chronological overview of the medical evidence in the Administrative Record.

In August 2002, Plaintiff was seen by Outpatient Psychiatric Services at the University of California, San Diego ("UCSD"). (Doc. # 8 at 401-03). An initial assessment was done and Plaintiff was diagnosed with "Bipolar I" and amphetamine dependance. (Id. at 403). At that time, Plaintiff's GAF was 55.*fn2 Plaintiff admitted to using crystal methamphetamine "everyday" for the past 10 years. (Id. at 402). Plaintiff was prescribed medication.

On May 20, 2003, Plaintiff was again seen by UCSD Outpatient Psychiatric Services. (Id. at 227). Plaintiff's GAF was 40. Plaintiff was reported as being well-groomed and cooperative. Plaintiff stated that she had not used crystal methamphetamine for a "few weeks."

(Id.) Plaintiff was continued to be prescribed bipolar medication.

In July 2003, Dr. Ed O'Malley, M.D., a Board Certified Psychiatrist, reviewed Plaintiff's medical history in connection with an earlier application for SSDI benefits. (Id. at 334). Dr. O'Malley found affective disorders and substance addiction disorders. Dr. O'Malley opined that Plaintiff was able understand and perform simple repetitive tasks; Plaintiff had the ability to maintain the pace, persistence and concentration needed to perform unskilled work over a forty-hour week; Plaintiff was precluded from work requiring frequent public contact; Plaintiff was able to relate to co-workers and supervisors; and Plaintiff was able to adapt to routine changes in the work place.

In July 2003, Dr. Sabourin, M.D., a Board Certified Orthopaedic Surgeon, saw Plaintiff for an orthopaedic consultation. (Id. at 335-39). Plaintiff complained of "[p]ain in the low back, pain in the wrists, and pain in the neck" arising from "five separate car accidents." (Id. at 335). Dr. Sabourin opined that, "[b]ased on my examination of this patient today, from an orthopedic point of view, this patient has no restrictions." (Id. at 339).

In October 2003, Plaintiff was seen by Outpatient Psychiatric Services. (Id. at 231). Plaintiff's GAF was 50. Plaintiff was reported as being sober, stable, and attending adult school programming for a GED and then possibly technical school.

In January 2004, Plaintiff was seen by Dr. Anna Jamieson, M.D. at UCSD Outpatient Psychiatric Services. (Id. at 235). Plaintiff was seeking to renew her medication. Plaintiff's response to treatment was reported as good. Plaintiff's behavior was appropriate; her speech was normal; her thought process was normal; her judgment was fair. Dr. Jamieson reported that Plaintiff's progress toward her goals was "good," although Dr. Jamieson was "unclear about meth use." (Id.)

On January 27, 2004, Plaintiff was seen by Joseph Dreyer, Master of Social Work, at UCSD Outpatient Psychiatric Services. (Id. at 236). Plaintiff reported sobriety for two weeks. Plaintiff's mood was depressed.

In March 2004, Dreyer saw Plaintiff. (Id. at 244). Plaintiff's condition was described as "actively using ...


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