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O'Bryan v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah

May 23, 2014

LINDSAY L. O'BRYAN, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

LANNY L. KING, Magistrate Judge.

Lindsay O'Bryan filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of an administrative decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, who denied her application for disability benefits. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned Magistrate Judge to determine this case, with any appeal lying before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Plaintiff seeks review of a decision issued by administrative law judge (ALJ) Mary S. Lassy dated June 22, 2012. Administrative Record (AR), pp. 13-24.

Plaintiff alleges that the ALJ erred in declining to accept the opinion of her treating psychotherapist, Jeff Daugherty, M.D., and the testimony of medical advisor Tom Wagner, Ph.D. These opinions, if accepted, would have required an ultimate finding that Plaintiff is mentally disabled. The ALJ was not required to accept Mr. Daugherty's opinion due to a lack of supporting clinical findings. Under the rules for weighing medical opinions, the ALJ was entitled to reject the non-examining source opinion of Dr. Wagner in favor of the one-time examining source opinion of Gary Maryman, Psy.D.

Therefore, the Court will DENY Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (Docket No. 12), AFFIRM the Commissioner's final decision, and DISMISS Plaintiff's complaint.

Background fact and procedural history

Plaintiff is a younger individual born on March 29, 1983. She alleges disability due to anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), depression, diabetes, and obesity. Plaintiff does not challenge the ALJ's evaluation of her physical impairments.

In June, 2011, Plaintiff was examined at the request of the Commissioner by Gary Maryman, Psy.D. Dr. Maryman assigned non-disabling mental restrictions: "[Plaintiff can] understand, retain, and carry out a simple one to two-step instruction and task.... This lady should also be able to carry out a work assignment reasonably well across a routine work schedule. She should be able to interact reasonably well with fellow workers and supervisors and there could possibly be some limitations for her in trying to interact and deal with the general public. This young lady would also appear most likely limited to adjusting and adapting to stressors and pressures of only a medium to lower stress work environment." AR, p. 451.

The ALJ gave "greatest weight" to the opinions of Dr. Maryman and the non-examining state agency program psychologists, finding them to be most consistent with the evidence as a whole. AR, p. 21.

The ALJ's residual functional capacity (RFC) finding was that the Plaintiff is limited to: "simple, routine tasks, no detailed tasks, and no work with the public. She could occasionally work with supervisors and coworkers with no fast-paced work and only minimal changes." AR, p. 18.

The vocational expert (VE) testified that an individual with the limitations found by Dr. Maryman and the ALJ[1] could perform a significant number of jobs in the national economy. AR, pp. 46-51.

The primary question before this Court is whether the ALJ erred in giving "greatest weight" to Dr. Maryman's findings.

Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and the Commissioner's response in opposition[2] are at Docket Nos. 12 and 14, respectively.

I. Plaintiff claims that the ALJ erroneously weighed the medical opinions.

Plaintiff's first contention is that the ALJ's RFC finding does not comport with the rules for weighing medical opinion. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527. These rules contemplate a hierarchy of medical opinion types. At the top is a treating source opinion. Such opinion is generally entitled to the greatest weight and, under certain circumstances, must be given "controlling weight." Section 404.1527(c)(2). Next, are examining-source opinions. "Generally, we give more weight to the opinion of a source who has examined you than to the opinion of a source who has not examined you." Section 404.1527(c)(1). Finally, non-examining source opinions are generally entitled to the least weight. In this case, Tom Wagner, Ph.D., testified at the administrative hearing as a medical expert, or advisor. His status was that of a non-examining source.

I.A. The ALJ properly weighed the treating source medical opinions.

Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in declining to give controlling weight to the findings of her treating psychotherapist, Jeff Daugherty, M.D. Mr. Daugherty treated Plaintiff at the Pennyroyal Mental Health Center. He is a certified psychologist with autonomous functions. On September 20, 2011, he completed a mental assessment form, finding that Plaintiff is markedly limited in 13 out of 20 functional areas. AR, pp. 499-500. The VE ...


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