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Colleen M. Schenkel v. Commissioner of Social

March 24, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Craig M. Kellison United States Magistrate Judge


Plaintiff, who is proceeding with retained counsel, brings this action for judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Pursuant to the written consent of all parties, this case is before the undersigned as the presiding judge for all purposes, including entry of final judgment. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Pending before the court are plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 21) and defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment (Doc. 22).


Plaintiff applied for social security benefits on July 13, 2006. In the application, plaintiff claims that disability began on November 1, 2001. Plaintiff claims that disability is caused by a combination of "Major Depressive Disorder, PTSD, Dependent Personality traits, degenerative disc disease, degenerative joint disease in the knees, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and asthma" which cause "serious symptoms, including difficulties in maintaining social functioning, difficulties in handling the stress and changes in a work environment, difficulties in activities of daily living, difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace, difficulties in dealing with the public, pain, the need to lie down during the day, and shortness of breath." Plaintiff's claim was initially denied. Following denial of reconsideration, plaintiff requested an administrative hearing, which was held on January 29, 2009, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Mark C. Ramsey. In an April 6, 2009, decision, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff is not disabled based on the following relevant findings:

1. The claimant has the following severe impairments: degenerative lumbar disk disease, degenerative joint disease, and depression;

2. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the impairments listed in the regulations;

3. The claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform medium work except that she is limited to 20 pounds of frequent lifting or carrying and simple, unskilled tasks without frequent public interaction; and

4. The claimant is capable of performing past relevant work as a care provider.

After the Appeals Council declined review on July 23, 2009, this appeal followed.


The certified administrative record ("CAR") contains the following evidence, summarized chronologically below:*fn1

July 6, 2001 -- The CAR contains an intake report from Shasta County Department of Mental Health. She was brought in on a "5150" due to a drug overdose. Plaintiff stated that her treatment goal was to "[g]et weaned off of pain meds for her back so she can get a job." Plaintiff reported no suicidal or assaultive ideation. She reported methamphetamine use within the preceding 30 days, as well as in the more distant past. As to medications, this intake record indicates that plaintiff had been prescribed psychotropic medications but does not take them.

Shasta County Department of Mental Health records indicate that plaintiff was discharged from care on this same date. The discharge form reflects a diagnosis of polysubstance abuse. The record also indicates that the expected course of recovery is improvement if plaintiff maintains sobriety. No psychotropic medications were prescribed on discharge.

A mental status examination performed this date reveals that plaintiff's appearance, behavior, and speech were all appropriate and normal. Plaintiff's mood was anxious, though her affect was "full/appropriate." Orientation was correct as to person, place, and situation. Short-term and long-term memory were intact. Intellect was considered average. A global assessment of functioning ("GAF") score of 50 was noted. The clinical evaluator recommended therapy and drug/alcohol treatment.

July 8, 2001 -- Plaintiff returned to Shasta County Department of Mental Health, again on a "5150." Once again, the diagnosis was polysubstance abuse. Mental status exam results were largely unchanged since the previous visit, though it was noted that plaintiff's mood was depressed and her affect was tearful. Plaintiff was discharged two days later with no medications prescribed.

July 10, 2001 -- Psychiatrists at Shasta County Department of Mental Health (Edward H. Macomber, M.D., and Aravind K. Pai, M.D.) completed a discharge report. As to reason for admission, the report notes:

This 39-year-old Caucasian female was admitted to the Shasta Psychiatric Hospital on a 5150 after being treated at Redding Medical Center for an overdose. The patient denies suicidal ideation but has been treated three times in the emergency room for overdoses in the past week to ten days. She admitted to taking methamphetamine, benzodiazepines, and opiates. She has a history of abusing drugs but denies suicidal intent. When asked why she takes so many medications, she says, "I was not sleeping and ...

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