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Christina A. Motz v. Michael J. Astrue

March 13, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Cathy Bissoon




Plaintiff Christina Motz ("Motz") protectively applied for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income ("SSI") benefits on September 3, 2008, and September 25, 2008, alleging that she had become disabled on August 2, 2007. (R. at 10, 119, 127). Pennsylvania's Bureau of Disability Determination denied the applications on December 5, 2008. (R. at 56, 61). Motz responded on January 8, 2009, by filing a timely request for an administrative hearing. (R. at 66-67). On May 25, 2010, a hearing was held in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, before Administrative Law Judge Geoffrey S. Casher ("ALJ").

(R. at 23). Motz, who was represented by counsel, appeared and testified at the hearing.

(R. at 26-46). Mark L. Heckman ("Heckman"), an impartial vocational expert, also testified at the hearing. (R. at 46-51). In a decision dated July 22, 2010, the ALJ determined that Motz was not "disabled" within the meaning of the Social Security Act ("Act"). (R. at 7-19).

On September 14, 2010, Motz sought administrative review of the ALJ's decision by filing a request for review with the Appeals Council. (R. at 4-5). The Appeals Council denied the request for review on February 17, 2011, thereby making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") in this case. (R. at 1). Motz commenced this action on April 7, 2011, seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's decision. (Docs. 1 & 2). Motz and the Commissioner filed Motions for Summary Judgment on September 16, 2011, and October 17, 2011, respectively. (Docs. 9 & 11). For the reasons that follow, Motz's Motion for Summary Judgment will be denied, the Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted, and the Commissioner's decision will be affirmed.


Motz suffers from bipolar disorder, depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and poly-substance abuse. (R. at 12). At the hearing, she testified that she had no physical limitations. (R. at 38). The ALJ concluded that Motz had the residual functional capacity to engage in a range of work involving only simple, routine tasks, simple, short instructions, simple work-related decisions, few workplace changes, no production-rate pace work, and only occasional interaction with supervisors, co-workers and members of the general public. (R. at 15). Heckman testified that an individual with Motz's limitations could work as a stock/inventory clerk, private housekeeper or groundskeeper. (R. at 48-49).

Motz worked as an invoice clerk from 2001 through 2004. (R. at 144, 159).

She evidently went through a divorce in 2002. (R. at 199, 208). On the evening of September 21, 2002, after being "overcome with stress," Motz deliberately overdosed on Effexor in an attempt to commit suicide. (R. at 206). Shortly thereafter, she regretted her actions and sought help from a friend. (R. at 208). After being stabilized at Latrobe Area Hospital, Motz was voluntarily admitted for inpatient psychiatric treatment pursuant to 50 PA. STAT. § 7201. (R. at 197). She was discharged on September 27, 2002. (R. at 197-198). At the time of her discharge, Motz was able to contract for her safety and did not need further inpatient treatment. (R. at 198). She was instructed to participate in a partial hospitalization program. (R. at 198).

On August 2, 2007, Motz was terminated from her position as a ward clerk for a nursing home. (R. at 144, 158-159). The termination of her employment was precipitated by her need to miss work on a frequent basis. (R. at 158). Motz consumed large quantities of alcoholic beverages on August 6, 2007. (R. at 221). Her boyfriend contacted emergency medical personnel after finding her to be unresponsive. (R. at 247). After learning that her boyfriend had contacted the emergency responders, Motz overdosed on Paxil and over-the-counter sleeping pills. (R. at 228, 247). She was involuntarily committed to Armstrong County Memorial Hospital ("ACMH") pursuant to 50 PA. STAT. § 7302. (R. at 247). She was discharged on August 10, 2007. (R. at 221). During the course of her hospitalization, Motz expressed a desire to "resume gainful employment" after becoming "behaviorally stable." (R. at 228).

Subsequent to her discharge, Motz sought treatment from Dr. William M. Cseh, a psychiatrist, and Stacy L. Moran ("Moran"), a physician assistant. (R. at 231-239).

On March 17, 2008, Motz told Dr. Cseh and Moran that she had poured boiling water on her arm two weeks earlier after thinking about a sexual assault ...

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