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Alana Marie Kout v. Michael J. Astrue

May 16, 2011

ALANA MARIE KOUT,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
DEFENDANT.



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

ORDER REGARDING PLAINTIFF'S SOCIAL SECURITY COMPLAINT (Doc. 1)

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the "Commissioner" or "Defendant") denying her applications for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") pursuant to Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3). 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

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was born in 1958, completed the twelfth grade, and previously worked as a collector and home attendant. (Administrative Record ("AR") 22, 30, 128.) On June 5, 2007, Plaintiff filed applications for DIB and SSI, alleging disability beginning on June 30, 2006, due to mental problems. (AR 77, 128-39.)

A. Medical Evidence

1. State Agency Physicians

On September 14, 2007, R.B. Paxton, M.D., completed a psychiatric review technique form in which the doctor opined that, as a result of her affective disorder, Plaintiff had (1) mild restriction in activities of daily living; (2) mild difficulties in maintaining social functioning; (3) mild difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace; and (4) one or two repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration. (AR 261, 264, 269.)

On that same date, Dr. Paxton also assessed Plaintiff's mental residual functional capacity ("RFC").*fn2 (AR 272-76.) Dr. Paxton opined that Plaintiff was moderately limited in her ability to understand, remember, and carry out detailed instructions, and to interact appropriately with the general public. (AR 272-73.) According to Dr. Paxton, Plaintiff had the capacity to understand, remember, and perform simple tasks and instructions, and could work with peers and supervisors, but not with the public. (AR 274.)

B. Administrative Proceedings

The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's applications initially and again on reconsideration; consequently, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). (AR 53- 85, 90-103.) On June 23, 2009, ALJ Michael J. Kopicki held a hearing where Plaintiff and a vocational expert ("VE") testified. (AR 26-52.)

1. Plaintiff's Testimony

The ALJ summarized Plaintiff's testimony in his decision as follows:

[Plaintiff] alleged that she has a hard time staying focused and cries for no reason. She reported that she has difficulty sleeping and staying asleep, with about 7 episodes of wakefulness a night. [Plaintiff] reported that she has a hard time staying focused and jumps around in conversation. [Plaintiff] alleged she experiences severe anxiety attacks.

[Plaintiff] testified that sometimes she just does not want to get out of bed or communicate. She just does not want to do anything. [Plaintiff] testified that she has a hard time just getting out of the door and that other people make her nervous. She has gained a lot of weight as a side effect of her medications, and does not feel very good about herself. She testified that she does not want to be around friends anymore and has not seen them for years. [Plaintiff] testified that she used to have arts and crafts hobbies but has not done any in a long time. She testified that she watches television but has a hard time watching a whole television show, and does not read books as her eyeglasses do not work that well and she has a hard time concentrating on what she is reading. [Plaintiff] testified that she does not associate with family members socially at events or cookouts. [Plaintiff] testified that she can concentrate on a book or task for 15-20 minutes and she can focus again after a 10-20 minute break.

[Plaintiff] testified that she has suicidal thoughts "too often" -- a couple [of] times a month -- and sometimes she will stay in bed for a couple of days. She testified that the last time that happened was 2-3 weeks ago. She testified that she has to force herself to go out and be around people. [Plaintiff] testified that her depression is worse when she is around her ...


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