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Will v. Astrue

April 24, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: McLAUGHLIN, Sean J., J.


Plaintiff, Paul W. Will, commenced the instant action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, who found that he was not entitled to supplemental security income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1383f. Plaintiff filed an application for SSI on October 7, 2005, alleging disability since August 1, 2005 due to hernia surgery, back problems, acid reflux and paranoia (Administrative Record, hereinafter "AR", at 54-57; 68). His application was denied initially, and Plaintiff requested a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ") (AR 43-49). A hearing was held on November 8, 2007 and on January 24, 2008, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled at any time through the date of his decision, and therefore was not eligible for SSI benefits (AR 16-31; 216-240). Plaintiff's request for review by the Appeals Council was denied (AR 5-8), rendering the Commissioner's decision final under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The instant action challenges the ALJ's decision. Presently pending before the Court are cross-motions for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, I will deny the Plaintiff's motion and grant the Defendant's motion.


Plaintiff was born on April 23, 1963 and was forty-four years old on the date of the ALJ's decision (AR 16; 54). He is a high school graduate and attended college for one year (AR 86; 129). His past relevant work experience was as a computer repair person but he has not worked since 1995 (AR 16).

Plaintiff has been treated by several health care providers since July 1991 with respect to his alleged physical impairments (AR 113-115; 118-122; 128-129; 176-212). In this action, Plaintiff is challenging the ALJ's findings and conclusions only with respect to his alleged mental impairments. I therefore focus my discussion accordingly.

Plaintiff was seen by George Ellis, M.D. on February 14, 2005 for his complaints of heartburn, groin and testicular pain (AR 115). In the course of his examination, Dr. Ellis reported that Plaintiff was alert and oriented, exhibited appropriate affect and demeanor, and his insight and judgment were good (AR 115). When Plaintiff was seen by Gene Marcelli, M.D., on May 11, 2005 for evaluation of his hernia, no psychiatric complaints were noted (AR 120). Similarly, no psychiatric symptoms were reported by the Plaintiff to Paul C. Lange, M.D., who evaluated Plaintiff with respect to his back pain (AR 128).

Plaintiff has been treated by Miroslav Zeleznik, M.D. since May 2005 (AR 172). Dr. Zeleznik's records consistently revealed that Plaintiff had no psychiatric complaints (AR 180-181; 183; 193; 196).

Plaintiff was evaluated by Julie Uran, Ph.D. on January 17, 2006 (AR 135-142). He drove unaccompanied to the evaluation (AR 136). Plaintiff reported that he was assaulted in 2003 by a former employer who struck him and shut his arm in a truck door because he would not supply a computer password (AR 136). He claimed the police refused to investigate the incident because the employer was the owner of a car dealership that repaired police cars (AR 136). Since the assault, Plaintiff relayed that was paranoid and did not want to go anywhere without a witness, given the possible interaction with his assaulter (AR 136). He reported nightmares, flashbacks, sleep disturbances and that he was "grumpy" (AR 136). He denied receiving any mental health services or medications (AR 136).

Dr. Uran reported that Plaintiff exhibited coherent and spontaneous speech, normal thought processes, had no perceptual disturbances or problems with memory and had appropriate impulse control and judgment (AR 137-138). Plaintiff reported attentional difficulties, but he was able to identify proverbs and perform serial subtraction with ease (AR 137). Dr. Uran noted that his vocabulary skills were above average and above-average intelligence was likely (AR 137). Plaintiff cried during the interview and often spoke of being wronged by others (AR 137).

She found he was unmotivated and disinterested in seeking treatment (AR 138).

Dr. Uran diagnosed Plaintiff with a paranoid personality disorder, rule out delusional disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, and assigned him a Global Assessment of Functioning ("GAF") score of 55 (AR 138).*fn1 Dr. Uran opined that Plaintiff's mental impairments did not affect his ability to understand, remember and carry out instructions (AR 141). She further opined that his ability to interact appropriately with the public and co-workers was only slightly limited and his ability to respond appropriately to work pressures was moderately limited, but that his ability to interact appropriately with supervisors was markedly limited (AR 141). She noted that Plaintiff had problematic interactions with employers by history and typically felt wronged by others, particularly those in authority, but that he was not functioning at a level commensurate with his ability (AR 141).

Plaintiff completed an Activities of Daily Living questionnaire in February 2006 (AR 75-94). In this questionnaire, Plaintiff stated that he was able to care for pets, handle his personal care, pay bills, mow the lawn, take out the trash, prepare meals, perform household chores and grocery shop (AR 84-85). He claimed he did not got out alone in public anymore since the assault (AR 84). He reported that his concentration was "excellent" and that he was teaching himself computer languages and computer operating systems (AR 86). Plaintiff was learning to play the mandolin and guitar, was able to help his girlfriend with puzzles and sewed simple projects such as pillows (AR 86; 91). Plaintiff reported that he was able to get along with his family and friends, although he claimed some of his neighbors were "jerks" (AR 88). He stated that his girlfriend's work schedule made socializing with others problematic since she worked the night shift, but they did socialize with her family "a good deal" during the holidays (AR 88). He reported staying in contact with friends "all over the USA" via phone, mail and other means (AR 89). He claimed he had gotten along with his supervisors in the past, had no trouble with authority figures "who do their jobs correctly" and was able to adapt to change (AR 89-91).

On March 9, 2006, Sanford Golin, Ph.D., a state agency reviewing psychologist, completed a Mental Residual Functional Capacity Assessment form, and found that Plaintiff was not significantly limited in a number of areas, but was moderately limited in his ability to interact appropriately with the general public; accept instructions and respond appropriately to criticism from supervisors; get along with co-workers without distracting them; respond appropriately to changes in the work setting; and set realistic goals or make plans independently of others (AR 156-157). On a Psychiatric Review Technique form completed the same date, Dr. Golin concluded that Plaintiff had a mild restriction of activities of daily living; moderate difficulties in maintaining social functioning; no difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence or pace; and had no repeated episodes of decompensation of extended duration (AR 153).

Dr. Golin found that the medical evidence established a paranoid personality disorder but that Plaintiff could maintain socially appropriate behavior, sustain an ordinary routine and adapt to routine changes without special supervision (AR 158). His daily activities and social skills were functional from a psychiatric standpoint (AR 158). Dr. Golin acknowledged Dr. Uran's report, but only partially adopted her opinion relative to Plaintiff's functional capacity (AR 158). Dr. Golin found that Dr. Uran's opinion was heavily based on Plaintiff's self reported symptoms and limitations and that the totality of the evidence did not support his subjective complaints (AR 158). ...

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