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Thomas v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Oregon

November 7, 2017

STACIE DENISE THOMAS, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          ORDER

          JOLIE A. RUSSO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff brings this proceeding to obtain judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision denying plaintiff's application for disability insurance benefits.

         Plaintiff asserts disability beginning January 22, 2013, due to: bipolar disorder versus schizoaffective disorder, depressive type, in partial remission; major depressive disorder; panic disorder with agoraphobia; a history of alcohol and methamphetamine abuse with mild cannabis use disorder; asthma; and back pain. Tr. 194, 19, 211.

         After a hearing, an administrative law judge (ALJ) determined plaintiff was not disabled. Plaintiff asserts the ALJ erred in rejecting both medical opinion and plaintiff's testimony in making her determination.

         A. Plaintiff's Testimony

         Plaintiff contends the ALJ erred in finding her symptom testimony inconsistent with the record and, thus, failed to properly credit her testimony.

         Plaintiff indicated on her function report she "can't leave [her] house for very long at a time and [she gets] very anxious when talking to people." Tr. 227. Plaintiff also indicated she can't stay out longer than two hours and can't have more than two people at her house at a time or for more than an hour. Tr. 232. She pointed out it is "[h]ard to talk to people [and she] can't be around people long or get in depth with them." Id.

Plaintiff testified she can't work because:
Just the thought of going, having to go to a place at a set time, every day, full of people who are talking to me and asking me things and expecting things from me, just [is too much to handle].

Tr. 47.

         The ALJ rejected plaintiff's description of disabling symptoms and found plaintiff's statements "concerning the intensity, persistence and limiting effects of these symptoms ... not entirely consistent with the medical evidence and other evidence in the record." Tr. 23.

         Specifically, the ALJ determined the longitudinal medical record reflects general improvement in plaintiff's symptoms during the period at issue, particularly with medication. Tr. 23. The ALJ noted that plaintiff was functional on risperdone and lorazepam. Tr. 24, 26, 351, 356. Moreover, the ALJ stated:

Significantly, aside from the medication management with her primary care physician, the claimant has had little mental health treatment. She has not established care with a psychiatrist. She saw a counselor ... for only several sessions in 2013 (with a number of no-shows ...) and has not seen one since then. Although it appears a lack of insurance has had something to do with the lack of treatment, she has been informed about resources and does not appear to have followed up.... Moreover, she last saw her primary care physician, Dr. Lyon, in June 2015 and has not had treatment since then. She testified at the supplemental hearing that she was going to try counseling now that ...

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