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Neblett v. Colvin

United States District Court, C.D. California, Western Division

August 21, 2014

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


VICTOR B. KENTON, Magistrate Judge.

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 physician's opinion; and
2. Whether the ALJ properly considered Plaintiff's testimony and made proper credibility findings.

(JS at 2.)

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.



Following a hearing on October 24, 2012, at which Plaintiff was present with counsel, and testified, and testimony was also received from a vocational expert ("VE") (AR 23-52), an unfavorable decision was rendered on November 9, 2012. (AR 9-19.) The ALJ followed the five step sequential evaluation process summarized in the decision (AR 10-11), determining at Step Two that Plaintiff has severe impairments consisting of the following: bipolar disorder; attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ("ADHD"); and a history of polysubstance abuse, in remission. (AR 12.) At the next step, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments do not meet or equal any of the Listings, and he then determined that Plaintiff's residual functional capacity ("RFC") allows her to perform the full range of work at all exertional levels with the following non-exertional limitations: simple, repetitive tasks; no prolonged public contact; and solitary work not in coordination with others. (AR 13.) The ALJ found that Plaintiff could not perform her past relevant work, and thus proceeded to Step Five, concluding that there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that she can perform, thus rendering her not disabled. (AR 17-18.)

The record contains an April 3, 2012 "check the box" type of questionnaire entitled "Medical Opinion Re: Ability to Do Work-Related Activities (Mental)" completed by treating psychologist Dr. Orkin. (AR 282-283.) There, Dr. Orkin concluded that Plaintiff has "no useful ability to function" with regard to her ability to maintain attention for two-hour segments of time and her ability to complete a normal workday and workweek without interruptions from psychologically-baaed symptoms, or an ability to set realistic goals and make plans independently of others, an ability to deal with the stress of semi-skilled and skilled work. Dr. Orkin noted that Plaintiff has "severe ADHD" and Bipolar II Disorder, cannot maintain concentration or focus for more than five to ten minutes, and could be expected to miss more than four days of work per month due to her impairments. (AR 283.)

The ALJ rejected Dr. Orkin's conclusions, giving them "no weight" because they are "simply not supported by the objective medical findings or the longitudinal record." Plaintiff's first issue focuses on asserted error with regard to this conclusion.

Plaintiff first notes that she has consistently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and cites various portions of the record to substantiate this. (JS at 4.) This conclusion was not disputed by the ALJ, who in fact found that Plaintiff's bipolar disorder is a severe impairment. (AR 12.) Further, Plaintiff notes that, during separate mental health appointments, there are observations of a depressed or anxious mood, perceptual disturbances, restlessness, irritability, and feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness. (Id.) She also points to a test that she indicates was designed to identify symptoms consistent with ADHD. (JS at 4-5, citing AR 291.)

Plaintiff disputes the ALJ's conclusion that Dr. Orkin "appears to have accepted the claimant's subjective complaints, and the above-noted opinions appear reflective of a position of ...

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