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Jacobson v. Berryhill

United States District Court, C.D. California

May 9, 2018

KRISTIE E. JACOBSON, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          SUZANNE H. SEGAL, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Kristie E. Jacobson (“Plaintiff”) brings this action seeking to overturn the decision of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security (the “Commissioner” or “Agency”) denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”). The parties consented, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge. (Dkt. Nos. 11-13). For the reasons stated below, the Court AFFIRMS the Commissioner's decision.

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On January 9, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) pursuant to Title II of the Social Security Act alleging a disability onset date of June 15, 2010.[1] (AR 147-48). The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's application initially and on reconsideration. (AR 40-71). Thereafter, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), which took place on January 12, 2016.[2] (AR 82-83, 559-93). The ALJ issued a decision on January 28, 2016, finding that Plaintiff was not disabled because there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that she could have performed. (AR 17-28). On March 28, 2017, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (AR 1-4). This action followed on May 25, 2017.

         III. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was born on June 17, 1964. (AR 147). She was fifty-one (51) years old when she appeared before the ALJ on January 12, 2016. (AR 559). Plaintiff has a high school education. (AR 163). She is divorced, but lives with her ex-husband. (AR 575-76). Plaintiff previously worked as a teacher's aide and a telecommunications worker. (AR 163, 347). She alleges disability due to: back injury, depression, anxiety, IBS, neck pain, arm pain, and severe back pain. (AR 162).

         A. Plaintiff's Testimony

         Plaintiff testified that she is unable to work because of neck and back pain, as well as residual pain and weakness in her left wrist subsequent to a fractured wrist. (AR 566, 568, 571). Her pain causes difficulty writing, driving, walking, standing, and getting out of bed. (AR 567-71). She stated that she is unable to lift more than a gallon of milk. (AR 572-73).

         Plaintiff also testified to memory and concentration difficulties, which are exacerbated by ongoing depression and anxiety. (AR 563-65). She is forgetful, lacks the ability to focus on a television show, and has difficulty being around people. (AR 564-65, 573-75). Nevertheless, she acknowledged travelling to visit her daughter in Idaho several times a year and to Michigan to attend court hearings. (AR 577-83).

         B. Treatment History

         In December 2011, Plaintiff complained of chronic anxiety and insomnia. (AR 314). She was assessed with anxiety disorder and insomnia and prescribed Hydroxyzine and Ambien. (AR 315).

         On February 16, 2013, Plaintiff was admitted to the hospital after intentionally overdosing on her deceased father-in-law's heart medications. (AR 278, 283, 290; see Id. 408). She also tested positive for methamphetamine. (AR 257). In the records, it was reported that “[Plaintiff] reports history of ETOH abuse, with DUI in 2010.” (AR 290). The diagnosis included “acute alcoholic intoxication” and “acute drug overdose.” (AR 283). In the consultation notes, it was reported “[Patient] willing to establish mental health services, although reporting she often travels out of state and may not be able to establish services on weekly basis.” (AR 290).

         After being discharged on February 25, Plaintiff complained of continuing depression. (AR 290, 308). Other than signs of sadness, a psychological examination was unremarkable. (AR 309). She was assessed with depressive disorder and anxiety and prescribed Fluoxetine. (AR 309-10). In March 2013, Plaintiff complained of depression but denied suicidal ideations. (AR 336). She was assessed with adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood and her Fluoxetine dosage was increased. (AR 336-37). In May 2013, Plaintiff was diagnosed with major depressive disorder, recurrent and moderate, and assigned a Global Assessment of Functioning (“GAF”) score of 48.[3] Her Fluoxetine dosage was increased. (AR 374).

         On May 23, 2013, Ana Maria Andia, M.D., performed a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation at the request of the Agency. (AR 352-58). The source of the information for the evaluation was Plaintiff, who Dr. Andia asserted was a “poor historian.” (AR 352). Plaintiff's chief complaint was depression. (AR 353). She described her symptoms as crying spells, moodiness, irritability, decreased energy, and anhedonia. (AR 353). Plaintiff asserted that her response to treatment was fair to poor and that she is no longer in treatment. (AR 353). She has been hospitalized twice, the most recent in March 2013, after she attempted suicide by overdosing. (AR 353). Plaintiff is currently taking Prozac and Hydroxyzine. (AR 354). She is able to care for herself, pay bills, and go out alone. (AR 355). She has difficulty focusing attention and making decisions. (AR 355). Plaintiff reported that she last worked in 2009 as an AT&T telecommunications worker. (AR 347). Plaintiff denied alcohol or substance abuse to the consultative doctor. (AR 357).

         On examination, Dr. Andia found Plaintiff's appearance, attitude, behavior, thought processes, thought content, intellectual function, affect, memory, insight, and judgment were normal, intact, and unremarkable. (AR 355-57). Plaintiff's mood was depressed and anxious, her speech slow and monotonous, and her concentration moderately limited. (AR 356-57). Dr. Andia diagnosed dysthymic disorder and anxiety disorder and assigned a GAF score of 60.[4] (AR 357). Dr. Andia opined that Plaintiff is able to understand, remember, and carry out simple, one- or two-step instructions and moderately limited in her ability to do detailed and complex instructions. (AR 358). Dr. Andia also opined that Plaintiff is moderately limited in her ability to maintain concentration and attention, persistence, and pace. (AR 358).

         In July 2013, after Plaintiff complained that her depression was not improving, her Fluoxetine dosage was increased. (AR 373). In September 2013, Plaintiff complained of bouts of crying, insomnia, fatigue, lack of motivation, irritability, anger, and panic attacks. (AR 408). She was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and assigned a GAF score of 45. (AR 408). Individual and family therapy was recommended. (AR 411). In October 2013, Plaintiff complained of mood swings. (AR 372). In April 2014, Plaintiff reported benefiting from her therapy and her medications. (AR 412). She was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and assigned a GAF score of 59. (AR 412). In August 2014, Plaintiff's mood disorder was “stable.” (AR 521). In September 2015, Plaintiff tested positive for methamphetamine. (AR 485).

         C. State Agency Consultants

         On July 8, 2013, Kim Morris, Psy.D., a State Agency consultant, reviewed the medical evidence and gave “large weight” to Dr. Andia's assessment. (AR 46-47). Dr. Morris found that Plaintiff has moderate difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace. (AR 47). She opined that Plaintiff is moderately limited in understanding, remembering, and carrying out detailed instructions; maintaining attention and concentration for extended periods; completing a normal workday and workweek without interruptions from psychologically based symptoms and performing at a consistent pace without an unreasonable number and length of rest periods; and responding ...


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