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Ester Adut v. Michael J. Astrue

January 3, 2013

ESTER ADUT, 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") erred in the assessment of Plaintiff's Mental Residual Functional Capacity (JS at 3);

2. Whether the ALJ erred in the credibility findings (JS at 17); and

3. Whether the ALJ erred in relying on the vocational expert's response to his incomplete hypothetical (JS at 24).

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 CORRECTLY ASSESSED PLAINTIFF'S MENTAL RESIDUAL FUNCTIONAL CAPACITY

After a hearing before the ALJ conducted on June 1, 2011 (AR 25-55), at which Plaintiff was represented by her current counsel, and testimony was taken both from Plaintiff and a vocational expert ("VE"), the ALJ found Plaintiff to be not disabled in a Decision dated June 8, 2011. (AR 11-19.)

The ALJ determined that Plaintiff has severe impairments of anxiety disorder and a depressive disorder (AR 13), but assessed that her mental residual functional capacity ("MRFC") allows her to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with non-exertional limitations of no work involving more than simple repetitive one to two step tasks; no work involving public contact; and no work involving more than occasional contact with peers. (AR 14.) Plaintiff disputes both the assessment and the MRFC conclusions.

Plaintiff has a high educational level, including a bachelor's degree, a business degree, and a law degree. (AR 347.) She married in July 1989, gave birth to triplets, but her husband filed divorce papers in June 2002. (AR 348.) Beginning in July 2004, and continuing through at least January 2011, with some interruptions in treatment,*fn1 Plaintiff was under the care of treating psychiatrist Dr. Peyser. (AR 343-355, 369-372, 400-429.) Dr. Peyser diagnosed Plaintiff as having generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, recurrent major depression and cognitive disorder, and concluded that she is "genuinely disabled by her condition." (AR 354.)

The record also contains reports of consultative psychiatric examiner ("CE") Dr. Weems (AR 298-301) and Dr. Howard, a psychologist (AR 304-306).

Plaintiff contends that the ALJ improperly rejected the opinions of the treating psychiatrist and the consultative examiners. For the reasons to be set forth, the Court disagrees, and concludes, rather, that the ALJ properly incorporated ...


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