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Mark Megliorino v. Michael J. Astrue

July 10, 2012

MARK MEGLIORINO,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Suzanne H. Segal United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Mark Megliorino ("Plaintiff") brings this action seeking to overturn the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (hereinafter the "Commissioner" or the "Agency") denying his application for Supplemental Security Income benefits ("SSI"). The parties consented, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge. For the reasons stated below, the decision of the Agency is AFFIRMED.

II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff filed an application for SSI on August 15, 2008. (Administrative Record ("AR") 170-75). He alleged a disability onset date of January 1, 2003. (AR 170). The Agency initially denied this claim on June 4, 2009. (AR 82).

On June 26, 2009, Plaintiff filed a written request for hearing. (AR 107). Plaintiff testified at a hearing held on September 21, 2010, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Philip J. Simon. (AR 42-74). On November 4, 2010, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. (AR 11-21).

Plaintiff sought review of the ALJ's decision before the Appeals Council, which denied his request on August 25, 2011. (AR 1-4). Thus, Plaintiff commenced the instant action.

III. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was born on September 9, 1966. (AR 358). Prior to his alleged disability onset date, Plaintiff worked as a warehouse order selector from 1992 to 1997 and as a cashier from 1998 to 1999. (AR 47-51). Plaintiff testified that he did some temporary work in 2009, but only for "one or two days." (AR 46-47).

Plaintiff testified that he used heroin in the past but he had "cleaned up himself" three or four years prior to his 2010 hearing. (AR 60). Plaintiff also testified that he had been "clean and sober" since 2007 and had never had any heroin relapses. (AR 61-62). However, both Plaintiff's annual assessment update in 2009 of his psychiatric condition and a follow-up medication report from the same hospital on June 5, 2009 suggested that Plaintiff "at times relapsed in heroin." (AR 547, 600). Plaintiff later noted that he would not call them "relapses". (AR 62-63). *fn1

A. Plaintiff's Medical History

Plaintiff stated in his Disability Report that he sought treatment at the Glendale Adventist Medical Center for gunshot wounds from February to May of 1991. (AR 199). Plaintiff had surgery on his stomach and legs. (Id.). From September 2005 to July 17, 2008, Plaintiff sought treatment at the "All For Health, Health For ALL" for osteoarthrists and pain in his legs and knees. (See AR 198-99). Plaintiff started taking medications for muscle relaxation, headaches and a sleep disorder. (See AR 199, 201).

Throughout 2005 to 2009, Plaintiff also sought treatment at the LAC/USC Medical Health Care Network for "lead poisoning, multiple shots in knees, bones and stomach," and "pain in legs" due to "arthritis and gunshot wounds." (AR 200, 250). Plaintiff received physical examinations at times, took medications and physical therapy to treat the pain and had a "steroid injection" in his left knee on June 22, 2009. (AR 200, 250, 535). The medical record noted that Plaintiff had "immediate relief of some of his knee pain" after the injection, and there is no medical record showing any follow-up treatment of Plaintiff's knees. (AR 535-41). Plaintiff received a CT study in July 2009, which only revealed "mild disc protrusions" with no evidence of nerve root or spinal cord involvement. (AR 536-37).

Plaintiff has received treatment at the Northeast Mental Health Center since May 19, 2008. (AR 337-49). Plaintiff complained that he had "depressed mood, uncontrollable crying, nightmares of violent and past traumatic events, [and] intrusive thoughts of death." (AR 338). Dr. Yee conducted an initial assessment of Plaintiff on June 18, 2008. (See AR 338-43). According to Dr. Yee's diagnosis, Plaintiff suffered from bipolar disorder and major depression without psychotic features. (AR 343). Dr. Yee noted that the diagnosis was based on Plaintiff's "self report." (Id.). Another doctor conducted an "Annual Assessment Update" for Plaintiff on June 30, 2009. (AR 600-05, 569-71). The assessment noted that Plaintiff had been suffering from "increasingly repeating auditory hallucinations." (AR 569). The doctor concluded in the updated diagnosis that Plaintiff had major depression with psychotic features and a post-traumatic stress disorder. (AR 569). Dr. Yee, in the Mental RFC Questionnaire, checked-off lines indicating that Plaintiff had "marked limitation" to maintain "attention and concentration for extended periods," to "get along with co-workers or peers without distracting them or exhibiting behavioral extremes," and to "tolerate normal level of stress." (AR 589-90).

Throughout 2008 to 2010, the main treatment Plaintiff received consisted of medications and counseling. (AR 200, 250). Dr. Yee maintained Plaintiff's therapy records from 2008 to 2010, which showed that Plaintiff's response to psychotropic medications had mostly been "good," and that his psychiatric condition was "stable." (See AR 547, 549-50, 557-59, 561-63, 565-68, 593-97).

B. Consultative Evaluations

1. Psychiatric Evaluations

On April 28, 2009, David Bedrin, M.D. ("Dr. Bedrin"), performed a complete psychiatric evaluation of Plaintiff. (See AR 359-65). Dr. Bedrin reported that the "Diagnosis by DSM-IV" showed that Plaintiff had bipolar disorder, a history of alcohol abuse, and a diagnosis of "opioid abuse currently in remission." (AR 364-65). Dr. Bedrin reported that Plaintiff's recent memory was impaired and his intellect was below average. (Id.). Dr. Bedrin noticed that Plaintiff used a cane in his right hand for walking. (AR 363). Plaintiff stated that he used the cane all the time because of his weak knees. (Id.).

However, Dr. Bedrin also observed that Plaintiff was alert, cooperative, clean, neat, pleasant and relaxed individual with "no acute distress" or "any bizarre posturing and mannerisms." (AR 363). Dr. Bedrin noted that Plantiff's speech was fluent without "pressure or retardation." (Id.). In the interview, Plaintiff denied suicidal intent. (Id.). Dr. Bedrin also reported that Plaintiff's "judgment and insight were good." (AR 364). Dr. Bedrin concluded that although Plaintiff might have impairments in his ability to perform complex tasks, he could do simple tasks, "perform work activities on a consistent basis" and "complete a normal workday without interruption resulting from his psychiatric condition." (AR 365). Dr. Bedrin also concluded that Plaintiff was able to "interact with co-workers and the public," and able to "deal with stresses encountered in competitive work." (Id.).

2. Internal Medicine Evaluations

On April 28, 2009, Dr. A. Rahman Khaledy ("Dr. Khaledy") performed a complete internal medicine evaluation of Plaintiff. (AR 351-58). For the functional assessment, Dr. Khaledy found that Plaintiff could "lift or carry 100 pounds occasionally and 50 pounds frequently." (AR 355). Further, Dr. Khaley found that Plaintiff could "stand/work for 6 hours in an 8-hour day and sit for 6 hours in an 8-hour day with normal breaks." (Id.). Dr. Khaley found that, Plaintiff did not "need any assistive device or cane for short distance walking." (Id.).

Dr. Khaley reported that Plaintiff could sit or rise up out of a chair without difficulty, and that "[t]here was no apparent ataxia or dyspnea noted." (AR 351). Dr. Khaley reported that the examination of Plaintiff's back revealed no limited movement, and that the "range of motion is intact with flexion." (AR 353). In the "straight leg raising" test, Plaintiff's could raise his legs to ninety degree in both the seated and supine positions. (See id.). Dr. Khaley noted that the examination with Plaintiff's knees showed a "a sign of mild osteoarthristis," but the range of motion was still intact with "flexion and ...


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