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Cassares v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Colorado

September 15, 2014

GINA L. CASSARES, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

ORDER

LEWIS T. BABCOCK, District Judge.

Plaintiff Gina L. Cassares appeals Defendant's (the "Commissioner") final administrative decision denying her claim for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income benefits under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (the "Act"). Jurisdiction in this appeal is proper pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 405(g). Oral argument would not materially assist in the determination of this appeal. After consideration of the briefs and the record, I affirm the Commissioner's decision.

I. Statement of the Case

A hearing on Plaintiff's claim was held before an administrative law judge (the "ALJ") on February 25, 2013. On March 5, 2013, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review thereby rendering the ALJ's March 5, 2013 decision the Commissioner's final decision for purposes of my review. Plaintiff timely filed this appeal seeking review of the Commissioner's final decision.

II. Statement of Facts

A. Background

Plaintiff was born on August 25, 1964, making her 47 years old at the time of her alleged disability onset date of August 26, 2011. Administrative Record ("AR") 148. Plaintiff has the equivalency of a high school education and has worked in the past as a certified nursing assistant and housekeeper but has not been employed since November of 2008. AR 180-1. Plaintiff alleged disability due to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety, agoraphobia, and back problems. AR 180.

B. Relevant Medical Evidence

In September of 2011, Plaintiff was evaluated by Elizabeth Richards, a licensed clinical social worker. AR 245-8. Ms. Richards diagnosed Plaintiff with a mood disorder "not otherwise specified, " noted that Plaintiff had a reported a history of post-traumatic stress disorder, and assessed Plaintiff with a GAF score of 45-50. AR 247. Ms. Richards opined that Plaintiff would benefit from inpatient psychiatric placement to stabilize her medications but that there was no basis to place her on an involuntary mental health hold. AR 247-8.

In October of 2011, Plaintiff was examined by Jose G. Vega, Ph.D. AR 294-5. Dr. Vega reported that Plaintiff was oriented as to time, place, person, and situation and presented herself in an "extremely histrionic fashion." AR 294. Dr. Vega diagnosed Plaintiff with recurrent and moderate-to-severe levels of major depression and chronic post-traumatic stress disorder. AR 295. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Vega completed a Med-9 Form on which he indicated that Plaintiff was totally and permanently disabled and unable to work at any job. AR 311. Dr. Vega's reiterated this same opinion on a Med-9 Form he completed in October of 2012. AR 310.

In December of 2011, Plaintiff was examined by Brett Valette, Ph.D. Ar 249-51. Dr. Valette diagnosed Plaintiff with major depression and chronic pain, noted a history of "cerebral vascular accident, " and assessed Plaintiff with a GAF score of 45-50. AR 251. Dr. Valette opined that Plaintiff likely had mild impairments in memory, mild-to-moderate impairments in concentration and persistence, and moderate impairments in social interaction. Id. Dr. Valette further opined that Plaintiff had work limitations of being easily overwhelmed with complex tasks and an inability to multitask; that her attendance would be impacted by her depression and pain; and that working a normal day would probably be overwhelming for her. Id.

Mark Suyeishi, Psy.D., a non-examining State agency psychologist, reviewed the record in December of 2011 and opined that Plaintiff was capable of performing work needing little or no judgment and involving simple duties that could be learned on the job in a short period of time. AR 73. Dr. Suyeishi further opined that Plaintiff could relate to co-workers if contact was not frequent or prolonged and should only have minimal interaction with the general public. Id.

In January of 2012, Plaintiff was examined by Lauren Davis, D.O. AR 260-5. Dr. Davis diagnosed Plaintiff with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and chronic pain. AR 265. Dr. Davis noted that Plaintiff had "significant psychiatric disease" and that her psychiatric illnesses were playing a large part in her chronic pain. Id. Dr. Davis opined that there were no limitations in the number of hours Plaintiff could stand, walk, or sit during an 8-hour workday; that Plaintiff would have occasional postural difficulties with bending, squatting, crouching, and stooping; and that Plaintiff could frequently lift or carry 20 pounds frequently and 30 pounds occasionally. Id. Dr. Davis recommended that Plaintiff have an official psychiatric evaluation "given [her] severe psychiatric diseases." Id.

John Hardy, M.D., provided mental health treatment to Plaintiff beginning in August of 2012. AR 279-86. Dr. Hardy diagnosed Plaintiff with post-traumatic stress disorder and assessed her with a GAF score of 51. AR 285. In October of 2012, Dr. Hardy noted that "[Plaintiff] makes reference to looking for disability, now a common theme that suggests her ...


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