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Reyna v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Arizona

February 25, 2015

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


H. RUSSEL HOLLAND, District Judge.

This is an action for judicial review of the denial of disability benefits under Title II and Tile XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. ยงยง 401-434, 1381-1383f. 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 Desiree Reyna. Defendant is Carolyn W. Colvin, acting Commissioner of Social Security.

In April and May 2009, plaintiff filed applications for disability benefits under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. Plaintiff alleged that she became disabled on January 2, 2009. Plaintiff alleged that she was disabled because of major depression, anxiety disorder, heart disease, and chronic abdominal pain. Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration. After a hearing on October 5, 2011, an administrative law judge (ALJ) denied plaintiff's claims. On May 31, 2013, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review, thereby making the ALJ's November 17, 2011 decision the final decision of the Commissioner. On July 30, 2013, plaintiff commenced this action in which she asks the court to find that she is entitled to benefits.

General Background

Plaintiff was born on April 13, 1968. She was 43 years old at the time of the hearing. Plaintiff has a GED and received special education services in grade school and high school. Plaintiff's past relevant work includes work as an admissions and records clerk and a cashier.

The ALJ's Decision

The ALJ first determined that plaintiff met "the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through June 30, 2013."[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 engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 2, 2009, the alleged onset date...."[5]

At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff had "the following severe impairments: ischemic heart disease, status post myocardial infarction, hypertension, mild obstructive sleep apnea, a depressive disorder, not otherwise specified, panic disorder without agoraphobia, lumbar degenerative disc disease with a small disc protrusion at L5-S1 and cervical disc disease with herniated nucleus pulposus...."[6]

At step three, the ALJ found that plaintiff did "not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1...."[7] The ALJ considered Listing 1.00 for musculoskeletal disorders, Listing 3.00 for respiratory disorders, and Listing 4.00 for cardiovascular disorders.[8] The ALJ also considered Listing 12.04 for affective disorders and Listing 12.06 for anxiety-related disorders. The ALJ considered the "paragraph B" criteria and found that plaintiff had mild restriction of her activities of daily living; moderate difficulties in social functioning; moderate difficulties as to concentration, persistence, or pace; and one episode of decompensation of extended duration.[9]

"Between steps three and four, the ALJ must, as an intermediate step, assess the claimant's RFC." Bray v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 554 F.3d 1219, 1222-23 (9th Cir. 2009). The ALJ found that plaintiff had "the residual functional capacity to perform medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) and 416.967(c) and as functionally described in Exhibit 9F, [10] except that the claimant should perform simple work tasks and should work in a non-public setting."[11]

The ALJ found plaintiff's pain and symptom statements less than credible because plaintiff's testimony that she quit her last job in January 2009 due to anxiety and panic attacks was inconsistent with treatment notes from that time period and plaintiff's prior report that she was terminated due to chronic tardiness.[12] The ALJ also found plaintiff's statements less than credible because she "testified that she was a little drowsy due to medical side effects; however, there are no significant complaints in the record" and because plaintiff "testified that she... had a 10 pound lifting limit after having her stents[13] implanted, however, this is not supported by the records."[14] The ALJ also found that plaintiff "described daily activities which are not limited to the extent one would expect...."[15] And, the ALJ found plaintiff's statements less than credible because "the objective medical evidence reflects that the medications" that plaintiff takes have "been effective in controlling [plaintiff's] symptoms."[16] The ALJ gave great weight to the opinion of Dr. Krabbenhoft[17] because it was "supported by the objective medical evidence, as well as by [plaintiff's] activities of daily living.[18] The ALJ also gave great weight[19] to the opinions of Dr. Bousvaros and Dr. Ying.[20] The ALJ declined to give great weight to Dr. Chaney's opinion[21] because she "did not perform psychological testing on [plaintiff] in h[er] clinic" and "h[er] psychiatric evaluation was done ...

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