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Ashley Davis v. Michael J. Astrue

October 10, 2012

ASHLEY DAVIS, 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 November 2009 Mental Residual Functional Capacity Assessment by State Agency review physician H. Amado, M.D.

2. Whether the ALJ properly considered the October 2010 opinions and treatment records of Dr. Marcelino Calimlim, Jr., M.D., a treating physician;

3. Whether the ALJ properly considered the October 20, 2009 opinions of Dr. Edward P. Pflaumer, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist; and

4. Whether the ALJ properly considered the treatment records of Connie McDonald, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.

(JS at 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 CONSIDERED THE NOVEMBER 2009 ASSESSMENTS OF PLAINTIFF'S MENTAL STATE BY THE STATE AGENCY REVIEW PHYSICIAN, DR. AMADO

In Plaintiff's first issue, she contends that the ALJ failed to properly assess her non-exertional limitations based on her mental state. She cites the Mental Residual Functional Capacity Assessment ("RFC") of State Agency psychiatrist Dr. Amado (AR 265-270), concluding that the ALJ failed to incorporate significant limitations assessed by Dr. Amado regarding her mental functioning. (See JS at 4: "Limitations not encompassed within the RFC or hypothetical questions.")

In making her argument, Plaintiff cites the following propositions: that Dr. Amado's opinions are uncontradicted (JS at 4); that the ALJ failed to give clear and convincing reasons for rejecting Dr. Amado's opinions (JS at 6); and that the ALJ failed to consider all relevant evidence in reaching his conclusion as to Plaintiff's mental RFC. (JS at 7-8.) Plaintiff charges that Dr. Amado's conclusions were not at all incorporated into the mental RFC assessment. (JS at 8.) The Court's examination of the record indicates that none of these propositions hold true.

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 ...


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