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Victor I. Murdock v. Michael J. Astrue

December 14, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sheila K. Oberto United States Magistrate Judge

(Doc. 1)



Plaintiff seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the "Commissioner" or "Defendant") denying his application for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") pursuant to Title II of the Social Security Act. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The matter is currently before the Court on the parties' briefs, which were submitted, without oral argument, to the Honorable Sheila K. Oberto, United States Magistrate Judge.*fn1


Plaintiff was born in 1945, has an associate's degree in accounting, and previously worked as a bookkeeper and tax clerk. (Administrative Record ("AR") 29-30, 46, 125.) On September 6, 2006, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB, alleging disability beginning on August 30, 2004, due to memory loss and problems with concentration from a stroke. (AR 15, 58.)

A. Medical Evidence

1. Dr. Reddy

On September 18, 2006, Plaintiff reported to Jaipal Reddy, M.D., that he felt tired and weak and unable to stand for more than three to four hours, sit for more than six hours, and walk for more than three hours in a day. (AR 167-68.) Plaintiff had decreased mental alertness, "difficulty thinking as well as formulating thoughts," and difficulty with concentration. (AR 167.) Plaintiff had difficulty with both short-term and long-term memory and reportedly was confused at times. (AR 167-68.)

Plaintiff further complained of moderate to severe knee pain, occasional, shooting leg pain, and severe fatigue. (AR 168.) Plaintiff could not walk more than a block or carry more than 50 pounds. Plaintiff could, however, carry up to 20 pounds occasionally. (AR 168.) According to Dr. Reddy, Plaintiff "cannot do any full time or even a part time job even whether it is a desk job or even answering the phones as he has difficulty with thought process formulation and significant limitations with the cognitive skills." (AR168.)

2. Dr. Hirokawa

On December 21, 2006, Greg Hirokawa, Ph.D., completed a consultative psychological evaluation. (AR 169-74.) Plaintiff reported to Dr. Hirokawa that he cooked, vacuumed, washed laundry, and performed yard work. (AR 172.) Plaintiff's typical day involved waking up at 8 o'clock in the morning, showering, dressing, and performing yard work once a week; his concentration varied from day to day. (AR 172.) Plaintiff enjoyed working on his computer and "reported having a few friends and described their relationship as good." (AR 172.)

Dr. Hirokawa diagnosed Plaintiff with adjustment disorder with depressed mood, for which Plaintiff was not receiving treatment. (AR 172, 173.) Dr. Hirokawa noted that Plaintiff's "symptoms of depression appeared to be within the mild range, and primarily due to his physical problems and the associated limitations. His communication skills were good." (AR 173.)

Dr. Hirokawa's functional assessment of Plaintiff was as follows: [Plaintiff] is capable of managing his funds. [Plaintiff's] ability to remember location and work-like procedures is good. [Plaintiff's] ability to understand and remember very short and simple instructions is good. [Plaintiff's] ability to understand and remember detailed instructions is good. [Plaintiff's] ability to carry out very short and simple instructions is unlimited. [Plaintiff's] ability to maintain attention and concentration for extended periods is good. [Plaintiff's] ability to accept instructions from a supervisor and respond appropriately to criticism is good. [Plaintiff's] social judgment and awareness of socially appropriate behavior is good. [Plaintiff's] ability to perform activities within a schedule, maintain regular attendance, and be punctual is good. [Plaintiff's] ability to function independently and sustain an ordinary routine without special supervision is good. [Plaintiff's] ability to complete a normal workday and workweek without interruptions from psychologically-based symptoms and to perform on a consistent basis is good. [Plaintiff's] ability to interact with co-workers is good.

The likelihood of [Plaintiff] emotionally deteriorating in a work environment is minimal. (AR 173-74.)

3. Dr. Tran

On December 30, 2006, Juliane Tran, M.D., completed a consultative neurologic examination of Plaintiff. (AR 175-78.) Plaintiff reported to Dr. Tran that he "tends to be quite forgetful and frequently forgets to do some tasks that were assigned to him. Eventually, his work hours were decreased to part-time and then further reduced because his boss noticed he has episodes of 'staring in space' and decreased concentration. He then stopped working." (AR 175.) Dr. Tran noted that Plaintiff's reported activities of daily living included cooking, gardening, mopping, and washing dishes. (AR 176.) Dr. Tran's functional assessment of Plaintiff was as follows:

[Plaintiff] should be able to handle his own funds. He should be restricted with activities involving frequent multitask [sic] sequencing, but not occasional. . . . He can drive if he passes a driving test. He probably should be restricted with frequent climbing, balancing, and working with heights but not occasional. There are no restrictions with steps or stairs or uneven terrain. There are no fingering or grasping restrictions. No specific lifting restrictions. No sitting, standing, visual, or environmental restrictions. (AR 178.)

4. Dr. Bugg

On January 9, 2007, G. W. Bugg, M.D., a state agency physician, assessed Plaintiff's physical residual functional capacity ("RFC"). (AR 179-85.) Dr. Bugg opined that Plaintiff could (1) occasionally lift and/or carry 50 pounds and frequently 25 pounds; (2) stand and/or walk for a total of about six hours in an eight-hour workday; (3) sit for about six hours in an eight-hour workday; and (4) perform unlimited pushing and/or pulling with the upper and lower extremities. (AR 180.) Plaintiff could occasionally climb and balance and frequently stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. (AR 181.) Plaintiff had no manipulative, visual, or communicative limitations, but he was to avoid concentrated exposure to hazards. (AR 181-82.)

5. Dr. Unger

On February 12, 2007, H.T. Unger, M.D., a state agency psychiatrist, completed a psychiatric review technique form on which Dr. Unger found that Plaintiff's adjustment disorder with depressed mood caused Plaintiff mild restriction in activities of daily living, mild difficulties in maintaining social functioning, and mild difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace. (AR 189, 196.) Dr. Unger found insufficient evidence of episodes of decompensation of extended duration. (AR 196.)

Dr. Unger noted that Plaintiff drove himself to his consultative examination on December 21, 2006, where he complained of feeling depressed, having poor concentration and short-term memory problems, although Plaintiff had no history of psychiatric issues, treatment, or medications. (AR 198.) Dr. Unger further noted that Plaintiff occasionally prepared income tax returns on a part-time basis and engaged in a range of activities, including performing household chores, cooking, yard work, and working on a computer. Plaintiff also had good relationships with a few ...

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