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Baunsgard v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Arizona

January 12, 2015

MARIA BAUNSGARD, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

ORDER

H. RUSSEL HOLLAND, District Judge.

This is an action for judicial review of the denial of disability benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. ยงยง 401-434. Plaintiff has timely filed her opening brief, [1] to which defendant has responded.[2] Oral argument was not requested and is not deemed necessary.

Procedural Background

Plaintiff is Marie Baunsgard. Defendant is Carolyn W. Colvin, acting Commissioner of Social Security.

On March 11, 2011, plaintiff filed an application for disability benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act. Plaintiff alleged that she became disabled on September 2, 2010. Plaintiff alleged that she was disabled because of a nerve on the top of her head, a proteinaceous cyst, which causes debilitating headaches. Plaintiff's application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. After a hearing on October 23, 2012, an administrative law judge (ALJ) denied plaintiff's claims. On November 27, 2013, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review, thereby making the ALJ's November 1, 2012 decision the final decision of the Commissioner. On January 21, 2014, plaintiff commenced this action in which she asks the court to find that she is entitled to disability benefits.

General Background

Plaintiff was born on November 27, 1959. She was 52 years old at the time of the hearing. Plaintiff is married and has adult-age children. Plaintiff has a GED. Plaintiff's past relevant work includes work as a receptionist, a benefits clerk, and a case aide.

The ALJ's Decision

The ALJ first found that plaintiff "last met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act on June 30, 2011."[3]

The ALJ then applied the five-step sequential analysis used to determine whether an individual is disabled.[4]

At step one, the ALJ found that plaintiff had "not engage[d] in substantial gainful activity during the period from her alleged onset date of September 2, 2010 through her date of last insured of June 30, 2011...."[5]

At step two, the ALJ found that "[t]hrough the date last insured, " plaintiff "had the following medically determinable impairments: marijuana dependence, depressive disorder, and migraine headaches...."[6] But, the ALJ found that "[t]hrough the date last insured, " plaintiff "did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that significantly limited the ability to perform basic work-related activities for 12 consecutive months; therefore, [plaintiff] did not have a severe impairment or combination of impairments...."[7]

The ALJ found plaintiff's statements as to the frequency and intensity of her headaches[8] less than credible based on plaintiff's report of daily activities, because medication has been relatively effective in controlling her headache symptoms, because plaintiff did not follow-up to change her headache medication, because she never saw a specialist regarding her headaches, because on numerous occasions she did not complain of headaches when seeing her primary care physician, and because "the objective findings in the record do not confirm the claimant's allegations."[9] The ALJ also found that plaintiff's headaches would not prevent her from working because plaintiff testified that she stopped working because of a business-related layoff, not because of allegedly disabling impairments, and there is no evidence that plaintiff's headaches became worse after the layoff.[10]

As for plaintiff's marijuana dependency, [11] the ALJ found that "the record does not confirm that the claimant had been advised to use marijuana to assist" with sleep and depression.[12] As for plaintiff's depressive disorder, the ALJ found that "the record reflects limited treatment for this impairment."[13] The ALJ also noted that plaintiff "has refused psychiatric treatment and medication...."[14] The ALJ also found that plaintiff had "provided inconsistent information regarding her symptoms."[15] The ALJ noted that plaintiff told Dr. Steingard[16] both that "her depression only lasts for days at a ...


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