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Celeste N. Clark v. Denial of Benefits Michael J. Astrue

December 8, 2010

CELESTE N. CLARK,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
DENIAL OF BENEFITS MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sandra M. Snyder United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER AFFIRMING AGENCY'S

Plaintiff Celeste N. Clark, proceeding in forma pauperis, by her attorneys, Law Offices of Lawrence D. Rohlfing, seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying her application for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. § 301 et seq.) (the "Act") and supplemental security income ("SSI"), pursuant to Title XVI of the Act. The matter is currently before the Court on the parties' cross-briefs, which were submitted, without oral argument, to the Honorable Sandra M. Snyder, United States Magistrate Judge.*fn1 After fully reviewing the record and briefs in this matter, the Court affirms the agency's decision.

I. Administrative Record

A. Procedural History

On December 2, 2004, Plaintiff filed protectively for disability insurance benefits, alleging disability beginning July 1, 2002. AR 16. On March 29, 2005, Plaintiff filed for SSI benefits, also beginning July 1, 2002. AR 16. Her claims were initially denied on June 2, 2005, and upon reconsideration on December 23, 2005. AR 16. On February 24, 2006, Plaintiff filed a timely request for a hearing. AR 16. Plaintiff appeared and testified at a hearing on June 7, 2007. AR 24-55. On August 23, 2007, Administrative Law Judge Michael J. Haubner ("ALJ") denied Plaintiff's application. AR 16-23. The Appeals Council denied review on March 22, 2009. AR 6-8. On July 17, 2009, Plaintiff filed a complaint seeking this Court's review (Doc.1).

B. Factual Background

Plaintiff (born June 9, 1978) alleged disability arising from insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, a history of heart palpitations secondary to supraventricular tachicardia (SVT), anxiety, and depression. She is a high school graduate and attended, but did not complete, college courses in medical administration. She last worked on March 20, 2001, when her employer changed her working hours to a schedule that conflicted with her medication. Her past work included office assistant for a county agency and a hotel desk clerk.

Plaintiff lived with her two minor children, who were nine and twelve years old at the time of the hearing. She had a driver's license and drove her own car. She was capable of her own personal care. She cooked, shopped, and did light housework. She played with her children and helped them with their homework.

According to her medical records, Plaintiff was diagnosed with diabetes in 1998 after the birth of her second child. During a 2002 pregnancy, Plaintiff experienced serious complications, requiring nearly two months' hospitalization due to her inability to control her diabetes. The baby died shortly after its birth in September 2002. She received no mental health treatment other that sessions with a nurse from Hines Hospice after the baby's death.

Although Plaintiff testified that she was compliant with her medications and other treatments and eighty percent compliant with diet, her diabetes was not under control. Blood sugars generally ranged from 200 to 300 mg/dl but reached as high as 680 mg/dl. (Normal glucose is between 70-99 mg/dl.) Multiple medical notes comment that Plaintiff did not test her blood sugar frequently and did not follow her diet plan. On one occasion, a nurse noted that Plaintiff had eaten cookies and milk for breakfast. She missed many appointments at the Community Diabetes Care Center.

Although Plaintiff stated on multiple occasions that she had suffered a heart attack, the record did not document her claim. Plaintiff had multiple invasive procedures to diagnose her tachycardia. She has no significant coronary artery disease.

Plaintiff's obstetrician, Douglas A. Helm, M.D., noted that she had no evidence of high blood pressure during her 2002 pregnancy, nor evidence of physical or mental limitations. Helm reported that Plaintiff was able to do physical activity such as "sitting, standing, walking, lifting, carrying, handling objects, hearing, speaking, and traveling," and demonstrated "decent understanding and memory, sustained concentration, and persistence."

In a psychiatric evaluation for the agency dated June 12, 2004, Plaintiff told psychiatrist Ekram Michiel, M.D., that she had felt depressed and anxious since she was jailed for domestic violence in February 2004. Michiel diagnosed:

Axis I Anxiety disorder, NOS.

Depressive disorder, NOS.

Axis II Deferred Axis III history of insulin-dependent diabetes and high blood pressure Axis IV Stressors: Health condition Axis V Global Assessment of Functioning: 60-65 AR 276.*fn2 ///

Michiel further opined:

Based on the evaluation and observation throughout the interview, I believe that the patient is able to maintain attention and concentration and to carry out one or two step simple job instructions.

The patient is able to relate and interact with co-workers, supervisors and the general public.

The patient is unable to carry out an extensive variety of technical and/or complex instructions.

Considering that she is not on any psychotropic medication and having no mental health follow-up, I believe her prognosis would be better if she started getting psychiatric treatment.

AR 276.

The agency's residual functional capacity assessment concluded that Plaintiff had no significant limitations except for moderate limitation of her ability to carry out detailed instructions. The agency's psychiatric review technique indicated mild restriction of activities of daily living, mild difficulties in maintaining functioning, and mild difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace.

Plaintiff testified that she could lift up to ten pounds. She could sit for an hour and a half at a time and could stand for an hour. She had difficulty concentrating and was only able to focus for thirty minutes before needing about twenty minutes' rest. Because her feet swelled, she ...


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