United States District Court, D. Arizona
A. Bowman United States Magistrate Judge.
plaintiff filed this action for review of the final decision
of the Commissioner for Social Security pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). (Doc. 1, p. 1); see also 42 U.S.C.
Magistrate Judge presides over this case pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636(c) having received the written consent of
both parties. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 73; (Doc. 22)
court finds that the final decision of the Commissioner at
step five of the disability analysis is supported by
substantial evidence and free from legal error.
gave specific and legitimate reasons for discounting the
opinion of the treating physician. She gave clear and
convincing reasons for discounting the claimant's
subjective testimony of disability. Her step 2 determination
was not reversible error.
March 18, 2013, Valenzuela filed for supplemental security
income pursuant to Title XVI of the Social Security Act. (Tr.
130) She alleged disability beginning on January 1, 2012, due
to fibromyalgia, PTSD, depression/anxiety, chronic migraine,
carpal tunnel, chronic spondylosis w/out myelopathy, cervical
radiculopathy, and neuralgia neuritis. (Tr. 130, 164).
claims were denied initially (Tr. 92-95) and upon
reconsideration (Tr. 96-98). Valenzuela requested review and
appeared with counsel at a hearing before Administrative Law
Judge (ALJ) Jasmin Elias on December 2, 2015. (Tr. 37) In her
decision, dated February 4, 2016, the ALJ found Valenzuela
was not disabled. (Tr. 19-29) Valenzuela appealed, and on
April 10, 2017, the Appeals Council denied review making the
decision of the ALJ the final decision of the Commissioner.
(Tr. 1-3) Valenzuela subsequently filed this action appealing
that decision. (Doc. 1)
Work History and Medical History
was born in July of 1963. (Tr. 42) She was 52 years old when
the ALJ issued her decision in February of 2016. (Tr. 29,
graduated from high school and has some college education.
(Tr. 43) She worked briefly as a bartender, a concrete form
setter, and a grocery stock worker. (Tr. 165) None of her
jobs qualifies as “past relevant work.”
December of 2013, a psychologist identified as G.R.L., Ph.D.,
reviewed the medical record for the disability determination
service and offered an opinion of Valenzuela's mental
limitations. (Tr. 65) G.R.L. diagnosed Valenzuela with
affective disorder and anxiety disorder. (Tr. 64) G.R.L. then
evaluated Valenzuela's “B” listing criteria,
which gauge the severity of her limitations. See 20
C.F.R. § 416.920a(c)(3). G.R.L. found Valenzuela has
“mild” restrictions of her daily activities;
“moderate” difficulties in maintaining social
functioning; “moderate” difficulties in
maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace; and no
evidence of decompensation. (Tr. 64) G.R.L. further opined
that the medical evidence did not establish the presence of
the “C” criteria, which are an alternative gauge
of the extent of her mental impairment. (Tr. 65)
found Valenzuela is markedly limited in her ability to
understand and remember detailed instructions. (Tr. 69) She
is markedly limited in her ability to carry out detailed
instructions and moderately limited in her ability to
maintain attention and concentration for extended periods.
(Tr. 69) She is markedly limited in her ability to interact
appropriately with the general public. (Tr. 70) G.R.L. opined
that Valenzuela can perform simple tasks with routine
supervision. (Tr. 70) She can relate to supervisors and peers
but cannot relate to the general public. (Tr. 70)
April of 2014, Burnard Pearce, Ph.D., reviewed the medical
record for the disability determination service and offered
an opinion of Valenzuela's mental limitations. (Tr. 81)
He diagnosed Valenzuela with affective disorder, anxiety
disorder, and also substance addiction disorder. (Tr. 79)
Otherwise, he agreed with G.R.L.'s evaluation of
Valenzuela's mental impairments and her functional
limitations. (Tr. 83-86)
January of 2014, treating physician Donald R. Smith, M.D.,
completed a Medical Source Statement - Mental. (Tr. 823) He
opined that Valenzuela's ability to understand and
remember detailed or complex instructions was
“poor.” (Tr. 823) Also “poor” was her
ability to attend and concentrate; ability to work without
supervision; and ability to interact with the public,
coworkers, or supervisors. (Tr. 824) Also “poor”
was her ability to adapt to changes in the workplace. (Tr.
824) These limitations, he opined, are caused by
Valenzuela's chronic pain and medications. (Tr. 824) He
noted that her medications “cause mental and physical
slowing.” (Tr. 824) Smith's recommendation was made
part of the record in January of 2015. (Tr. 823) Apparently,
his treatment records were never made part of the case
medical record. (Tr. 275)
December of 2015, Janet San Nicholas, MC, NCC, LPC, wrote a
letter evaluating Valenzuela's mental condition. She
stated that Valenzuela “has been diagnosed with Post
Traumatic Stress Disorder, the symptoms of which are
exacerbated by the severe, constant, physical pain of
Fibromyalgia, and resulting physical trauma from years of
abuse and a bicycle accident.” (Tr. 1253) “The
combination of these mental and physical symptoms results in
drastic restrictions to her everyday life functioning in all
aspects of her life.” Id. “Ms.
Valenzuela is unable to sit through a full hour session as
she needs to constantly shift positions ending up lying down
as this is the least painful position for her.”
Id. “She has no patience for people or things
she encounters as she is constantly battling the physical
pain and the resulting anger and frustration, anxiety and
sadness that results.” Id. San Nicholas
completed a Mental Residual Functional Capacity Assessment in
which she opined that Valenzuela is “markedly
limited” in all areas of mental functioning. (Tr.
December 2013, Charles Clayton, M.D., reviewed the medical
records for the disability determination service and offered
an opinion of Valenzuela's physical limitations. (Tr. 68)
Clayton opined that Valenzuela could lift 20 pounds
occasionally and 10 pounds frequently. (Tr. 67) She could
sit, stand, and/or walk for 6 hours in an 8-hour day. (Tr.
67) She has no other vocational limitations. Clayton's
opinion suggests that Valenzuela can perform light work.
See 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(b).
October of 2015, treating physician Donald R. Smith, M.D.,
completed an evaluation entitled Medical Work Tolerance
Recommendations. (Tr. 273) Smith opined that Valenzuela could
stand for 10 minutes at one time and for 2 hours total. (Tr.
273) She could sit for 30 minutes at one time and for 4 hours
total. (Tr. 273) She could walk for 10 minutes at one time
and for 60 minutes total. (Tr. 273) Smith opined that
Valenzuela could not lift 10 pounds occasionally. (Tr. 273)
She could not climb ladders or stairs. (Tr. 273) Smith opined
that Valenzuela would miss 30 days of work per month. (Tr.
274) He documented further postural limitations, manipulative
limitations, and environmental limitations. (Tr. 274)
Smith's opinion suggests that Valenzuela cannot perform
even sedentary work. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.967.
Smith's recommendation was made part of the record in
December of 2015. (Tr. 272) Apparently, his treatment records
were never made part of the case medical record. (Tr. 275)
April of 2014, Herbert Meites, M.D., reviewed the medical
record for the disability determination service and
considered the severity of Valenzuela's physical
impairments. (Tr. 83-84) Meites ...