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Kmetko v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

September 6, 2013

AMANDA KMETKO, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

WILLIAM H. BAUGHMAN, Jr., Magistrate Judge.

Introduction

This is an action for judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying the application of the plaintiff, Amanda Kmetko, for disability insurance benefits. The parties have consented to magistrate judge's jurisdiction.

The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), whose decision became the final decision of the Commissioner, found that Kmetko had severe impairments consisting of depression, with psychotic features; generalized anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders.[1] The ALJ made the following finding regarding Kmetko's residual functional capacity ("RFC"):

After careful consideration of the entire record, I find that from the alleged onset date of March 3, 2001, through the date last insured of March 31, 2003, the claimant had the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following non-exertional limitations: She was limited to a work environment with, in general, relatively few workplace changes. She was limited to occasional interaction with coworkers and the general public. She could not have interacted with others in situations requiring substantial negotiation, persuasion, or conflict resolution. She could not have worked in an environment with high quotas, strict time limits or deadlines, or fast-paced production demands (such as those encountered in piece work or on a fast moving assembly line.).[2]

Given that RFC, the ALJ decided that this RFC precluded Kmetko from performing her past relevant work.[3]

Based on an answer to a hypothetical question posed to the vocational expert ("VE") at the hearing setting forth the residual functional capacity finding quoted above, the ALJ determined that a significant number of jobs existed locally and nationally that Kmetko could perform.[4] The ALJ, therefore, found Kmetko not under a disability.

Kmetko asks for reversal of the Commissioner's decision on the ground that it does not have the support of substantial evidence in the administrative record. Specifically, Kmetko argues that the RFC finding lacks the support of substantial evidence.

The Court concludes that the ALJ's finding of no disability is supported by substantial evidence and, therefore, must be affirmed.

Analysis

This case presents a single issue for review:

The ALJ gave the opinion of Kmetko's treating psychiatrist controlling weight. The treating psychiatrist opined multiple moderate mental limitations (impairments) but did not offer any work-related limitations. Does substantial evidence support the ALJ's finding as to the limitations imposed by Kmetko's admitted, moderate mental limitations?

During the relevant time period, and thereafter through the date of decision, Bharat Shah, M.D., a board certified psychiatrist, treated Kmetko. On August 4, 2011, he prepared a Mental Residual Functional Capacity Assessment using Form SSA-4734-F4-SUP, the same form used by state agency reviewing psychologists in giving RFC assessments.[5] In that assessment, he rated Kmetko moderately limited in a number of categories.[6] He did not, however, complete the section of the form calling for a functional capacity assessment of Kmetko.[7] Attached to Dr. Shah's assessment was a second form titled "Medical Assessment of Ability to do Work-Related Activities (Mental)."[8] Dr. Shah also did not complete this form.

The ALJ gave Dr. Shah's opinion controlling weight.[9] Based upon the multiple, moderate limitations noted in that opinion, he adopted a residual functional capacity finding that ...


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