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Another “zombie” denied Social Security benefits

November 8, 2012

Ms. Ruki Kiki Veras was denied social security benefits and this district court in Florida agrees. In testimony quoted by the ALJ and in footnote by this court, the applicant’s husband said the medication Depakote made her like a zombie.

RUKI KIKI VERAS, Plaintiff,
-vs-
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

Case No. 6:11-cv-1652-Orl-DAB

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA,
ORLANDO DIVISION

Decided November 1, 2012 by US Magistrate Judge David Baker:

Plaintiff protectively filed an application for Supplemental Security Income on June 17, 2009. (R. 152-59). The claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration,

Plaintiff alleges disability due to Hepatitis C, status post Interferon treatment, bipolar disorder, depression, arm and leg numbness, and shortness of breath/COPD

Plaintiff was forty-seven years old at the time of the hearing (R. 44), with a General Equivalency Diploma (“GED”) and past relevant work experience as an assembler, fabricator, waitress, spot welder, and medical records employee

The Administrative Law Judge determined:

Plaintiff had the severe impairments of: status post Hepatitis C treatment, bipolar disorder, depression, substance abuse disorder, and degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine (R. 19), and the record supports this uncontested finding. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appx. 1 (R. 20-22), and found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform:

less than the full range of light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b). The claimant is able to lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently. The claimant is able to sit for 6 hours and stand and/or walk for 6 hours in an 8-hour workday. The claimant has unlimited push/pull capability. The claimant is able to frequently balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, and climb ramps/stairs. She is able to occasionally climb ladders, ropes, or [*4] scaffolds. The claimant needs to avoid pulmonary irritants. The claimant is able to perform simple, routine, repetitive tasks. The claimant is able to concentrate and persist for 2-hour segments. The claimant is limited to work that requires only occasional changes in the work setting and only occasional interaction with the public. The claimant is unable to meet fast paced, high production demands. (R. 22).

The ALJ then determined that Plaintiff could not perform any past relevant work (R. 26-7). Relying on the testimony of a Vocational Expert, the ALJ found that there were other jobs in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform (R. 27-8). As such, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not under a disability, as defined in the Social
Security Act, since the date the application was filed (R. 28).

In analysis of testimony from the applicant’s husband, the Court writes:

Although Mr. Veras was a lay witness and did not, as suggested by Plaintiff, offer an “opinion,” the ALJ was obligated to consider and evaluate his testimony, along with the other evidence of record. As noted by the Commissioner, the ALJ did just that, by explicitly noting the substance of the testimony in his decision [FN5] and implicitly finding it to be inconsistent with the medical evidence.[FN6] As this finding is supported by the substantial evidence identified in the decision, it is not disturbed. See Osborn, supra (holding that a specific credibility determination as to a claimant’s testimony sufficiently implied a rejection of his wife’s testimony as well).

— Footnotes —
FN5 See R. 17 (“Also appearing and testifying were . . . Ralph Veras, the claimant’s husband.”), R. 21 (“The claimant’s husband testified that the claimant is aggressive and has smashed his windshield in the past on several occasions.”; “During the hearing, the claimant’s husband testified that with the medication Depakote the claimant “sleeps and walks around like a zombie.” However, he also noted that she is able to read novels and communicate with family members through the social network Facebook and e-mails.”)

FN6 Note the detailed analysis provided by the ALJ (R. 23-6) to support his finding that “the claimant’s statements and third-party statements concerning the intensity, persistence and limiting effects of these symptoms are not credible to the extent they are inconsistent with the above residual functional capacity assessment.” (R. 23).

Concluding:

For the reasons set forth above, the administrative decision is AFFIRMED. The Clerk is directed to enter judgment accordingly, terminate all pending matters, and close the file.

DONE and ORDERED in Orlando, Florida on November 1, 2012.

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