Credibility of Social Security Disability Plaintiff that ‘cannot stand psychiatrists … zombifies me’
August 2, 2012 by Order of US Magistrate Judge John E. McDermott, the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security in the case of Raymond E. Otto was reversed and remanded for further proceedings.
The Administrative Law Judge must reassess Otto’s credibility; particularly as regards Otto’s claim that he does not seek psychiatric care because it “zombifies”.
RAYMOND E. OTTO, Plaintiff,
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
Case No. EDCV 11-1925-JEM
2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 108435
Decided August 2, 2012 by Magistrate Judge John E. McDermott:
the ALJ discounted Plaintiff’s credibility because “[d]espite being aware of his mental issues, he chooses to avoid psychiatric treatment and the use of psychiatric medication.” (AR 39.) An ALJ may properly discount a claimant’s credibility where there is “an unexplained, or inadequately explained, failure to seek treatment or follow a prescribed course of treatment.” Fair v. Bowen, 885 F.2d 597, 603 (9th Cir. 1989). Here, however, Plaintiff did explain his failure to seek treatment. He testified that he does not receive any mental treatment “by choice”: “. . . I cannot stand psychiatrists. All they want to do is put pills down my throat which either zombifies me, makes me want to sleep all day or it wires me up.” (AR 618.) He added that he never thought any mental health professionals were doing him any good. (AR 627-28.) Moreover, “it is a questionable practice to chastise one with a mental impairment for the exercise of poor judgment in seeking rehabilitation.” Nguyen v. Chater, 100 F.3d 1462, 1465 (9th Cir. 1996) (quotation mark and citation omitted). Thus, Plaintiff’s failure to seek treatment for his mental illness does not clearly and convincingly detract from his credibility.
Remand is warranted for the ALJ to reassess Plaintiff’s credibility.
The background section of Judge McDermott’s Order explains:
In January 1992, Plaintiff [Raymond E. Otto] was deemed disabled since February 1, 1988, due to schizophrenia and antisocial personality disorder.
I think this is a good decision. I really like the implication of choice as regards becoming a medicated zombie and am happy to see this court find plausible credibility in Otto’s explanation.
There are many more ZombieLaw Social Security Cases but “zombifies” is actually a first; although we already had two “zombified”. But still, way to go Judge McDermott – a good decision and a vocabulary first for the courts.
Presumably, Mr. Otto’s attorney, William M. Kuntz, also deserves credit for both the outcome and the inclusion of “zombify” in Plaintiff’s briefs.