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Marsha E. Morris v. Michael J. Astrue

December 29, 2011

MARSHA E. MORRIS,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
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 DENIAL OF BENEFITS AND ORDERING JUDGMENT FOR COMMISSIONER

Plaintiff Marsha Morris, by her attorneys, Frailing, Rockwell, Kelly & Duarte, seeks judicial review of the 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"). 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. Following review of the record as a whole and applicable law, this Court affirms the agency's determination to deny benefits to Plaintiff.

I. Administrative Record

A. Procedural History

On April 5, 2007, Plaintiff filed for disability insurance benefits, alleging disability beginning January 1, 2006. Her claim was denied initially on August 9, 2007, and upon reconsideration on February 8, 2008. On April 2, 2008, Plaintiff timely requested an administrative hearing. Plaintiff appeared and testified at a hearing on September 1, 2009. On January 11, 2010, Administrative Law Judge Daniel G. Heely denied Plaintiff's application. Plaintiff appealed to the Administrative Council, which denied her request for review. On July 28, 2010, Plaintiff filed her District Court complaint.

B. Agency Record

Following completion of high school, Plaintiff (born October 1, 1944) completed two years at Modesto Junior College and worked as a legal secretary for Madera County from 1966 until she retired in 1998. Thereafter, she managed a video rental store until it closed on March 31, 2006. She was not employed thereafter.

Plaintiff testified that she was no longer able to work because of severe varicose veins and "migraine-type headaches." Her ailments included clinical depression, agoraphobia, and obsessive compulsive disorder. She represented herself as suicidal and schizophrenic. She took Paxil, which kept her depression "at a tolerable level," and the generic equivalent of Inderal. Plaintiff last saw a psychologist or other mental health doctor in 1997.

Plaintiff, who never married and had no children, lived with 12 cats. Her only hobbies were watching television and puttering around the yard, trimming bushes or raking leaves. She did as little housework as was necessary, attributing her disinterest in cleaning to her depression. Nonetheless, she reported on her adult function report that she watched television, read, ate, reviewed her mail, paid her bills, cared for her cats, dumped garage, watered the lawn, worked in the yard, talked on the phone, cleaned house, did her own laundry, went shopping, and ran errands. Plaintiff did volunteer office work for her church. She drove to church and to the store.

Because Plaintiff sometimes had difficulty sleeping, she had developed irregular sleep habits, sleeping at varying times for varying durations.

In a third-party adult function report, Plaintiff's long-time friend, E. Joyce Bell, reported that Plaintiff took care of her own home, her finances, and personal hygiene, and was able to cook for herself. Bell commented that, had the video-store owner not been a friend, Plaintiff would not have been able to keep that job because she was frequently tardy and often missed work due to illness.

The Psychiatric Medical group treated Plaintiff's depression in the 1980's and again in the late 1990's. On August 1, 1997, M.J. Hetnal, M.D., diagnosed:

Axis I: Major depression of recurrent type.

Dysthymia.

To rule out obsessive compulsive disorder.

Axis II: Deferred.

Axis III: Moderate obesity and headaches.

Axis [IV]: ...


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