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John Restifo v. Michael J. Astrue

June 15, 2011

JOHN RESTIFO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: VICTOR B. Kenton United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER (Social Security Case)

This matter is before the Court for review of the decision by the Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff's application for disability benefits. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(c), the parties have consented that the case may be handled by the Magistrate Judge. The action arises under 42 U.S.C. §405(g), which authorizes the Court to enter judgment upon the pleadings and transcript of the record before the Commissioner. The parties have filed the Joint Stipulation ("JS"), and the Commissioner has filed the certified Administrative Record ("AR").

Plaintiff raises the following issues:

1. Whether the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") properly considered the treating psychiatrist's opinion;

2. Whether the ALJ properly held that Plaintiff could perform the jobs of a store labor person, an auto body repairer helper and a hand packager.

(JS 3.)

This Memorandum Opinion will constitute the Court's findings of fact and conclusions of law. After reviewing the matter, the Court concludes that the decision of the Commissioner must be affirmed.

I THE ALJ PROPERLY EVALUATED THE OPINION OF TREATING PSYCHIATRIST DR. BLUMBERG

Plaintiff has been receiving treatment at the Riverside County Mental Health Department since November 2004. (AR 236-289.) In a Narrative Report prepared on April 27, 2010, Dr. Blumberg assessed the following: disorganized thought process; no psychosis; moderately impaired memory; intact judgment; confusion, depression and anxiety; inability to maintain a sustained level of concentration or sustained repetitive tasks for an extended period, or to adapt to new or stressful situations; ability to interact appropriately with others, but not with co-workers or with supervisors; pleasant but anxious attitude; able to manage his own funds; unable to complete a 40-hour workweek without decompensating; and a prognosis described as "chronic" and "very guarded." Further, Dr. Blumberg wrote that Plaintiff has a long history of severe anxiety and obsessive symptoms, poor concentration and attention span and an inability to complete tasks; that he is at times depressed and has been very refractory to any treatment and unable to maintain consistent employment due to his illness. (AR 289.)

In her decision, the ALJ briefly referenced Dr. Blumberg's report, although mistakenly attributing it to a "medical source of unknown qualifications." (AR 17.) The ALJ rejected the conclusions set forth in this narrative report because they are "not consistent with the mental status examinations recorded in the treatment records or with the findings on examination by Dr. Rodriguez." (Id.)

Plaintiff asserts that the depreciation of Dr. Blumberg's opinion, as set forth in this narrative report, is error, necessitating a remand.

A. Applicable Law.

In evaluating mental impairments, 20 C.F.R. §404.1520a(c)(3)(4) and §416.920a(c)(3)(4) mandate that consideration be given, among other things, to activities of daily living ("ADLs"), social functioning; concentration, persistence, or pace; and episodes of decompensation. These factors are generally analyzed in a Psychiatric Review Technique Form ("PRTF"). The PRTF is used at Step Three of the sequential evaluation to determine if a claimant is disabled under the Listing of Impairments; however, the same data must be considered at subsequent steps unless the mental impairment is found to be not severe at Step Two. See SSR 85-16.

20 C.F.R. ยงยง404.1520a(c)(1) and 416.920a(c)(1) require consideration of "all relevant and available clinical signs and laboratory findings, the effects of your symptoms, and how your functioning may be affected by factors including, but not limited to, chronic ...


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