United States District Court, District of Columbia
Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment of Reversal; Granting
Defendant's Motion for Judgment of Affirmance
RUDOLPH CONTRERAS United States District Judge.
Ms. Kyla Williams, unsuccessfully applied for supplemental
security income (SSI) benefits. Her appeal was rejected by an
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), and Ms. Williams sought this
Court's review of the ALJ's decision. After this case
was referred to Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson for full
case management, Magistrate Judge Robinson recommended that
the Court affirm the denial of benefits. Because the Court
agrees with Magistrate Judge Robinson's conclusions, the
Court will adopt the report, grant the Defendant's motion
for affirmance, and deny Ms. Williams's motion for
Williams applied for SSI benefits in 2012. AR
193-99. She reported that she was disabled due to
pain in her knee, manic depression, and bipolar disorder. AR
237. The Social Security Administration denied Ms.
Williams's application. AR 108. Ms. Williams appealed the
denial to an ALJ, resulting in a hearing, see
Transcript, AR 38-66, and eventually a written opinion
affirming the denial, see ALJ Decision, AR 18-30.
The ALJ concluded that Ms. Williams did have multiple severe
impairments-namely, degenerative joint disease, obesity, and
bipolar disorder. ALJ Decision, AR 22. However, the ALJ
concluded that Ms. Williams did not qualify for SSI benefits
because she still had the ability, or residual functional
capacity, to perform limited types of work. ALJ Decision AR
24. Specifically, the ALJ found that Ms.
perform sedentary work . . . except [Ms. Williams] cannot
operate foot controls with her right foot. She cannot climb
ladder[s], ropes, or scaffolds or crawl. She can occasionally
balance, stoop, kneel, and crouch. [Ms. Williams] should
avoid exposure to extreme cold and exposure to workplace
hazards such as unprotected machinery and unprotected
heights. [Ms. Williams] is limited to performing simple,
routine, and repetitive tasks; in a work environment free of
fast paced production requirements; involving only simple,
work-related decisions; with few, if any, work place changes.
She can have no interaction with the public and only
occasional interaction with co-workers and supervisors.
ALJ Decision, AR 24. Because the ALJ concluded that Ms.
Williams's residual functional capacity permitted her to
perform work existing in significant quantities in the
national economy, the ALJ concluded that she was not
disabled. ALJ Decision, AR 24-29.
dispute between the parties focuses on the ALJ's
conclusions concerning Ms. Williams's psychiatric
conditions, which Ms. Williams argued the ALJ did not
adequately consider in determining her residual functional
capacity. Ms. Williams presented assessments from three
psychiatrists-Dr. Prayaga,  Dr. Rehman, and Dr.
Panbehi. ALJ Decision, AR 27. Drs. Prayaga and
Rehman had treated Ms. Williams, and Dr. Panbehi was familiar
with her treatment records. ALJ Decision, AR 27. Each
psychiatrist stated, with some variation, that Ms.
Williams's psychiatric conditions prevented her from
working. ALJ Decision, AR 27. The ALJ also
considered some of Ms. Williams's treatment notes. ALJ
Decision, AR 27; see also Psychiatric Encounter
Notes, AR 547-72. The treatment notes spanned from August 7,
2013 to August 27, 2014. Psychiatric Encounter Notes, AR 547-72.
The substance of the treatment notes varies very little from
encounter to encounter, and the written comments are often
repeated verbatim from visit to visit. See generally
Psychiatric Encounter Notes, AR 547-72. In general, the
treatment notes indicate that Ms. Williams's condition
was stable and that no new major concerns were present.
See generally Psychiatric Encounter Notes, AR
considering the evidence from Ms. Williams's
psychiatrists, the ALJ concluded that Dr. Prayaga's
letter was entitled to “little weight” because
the treatment records “evidence[d] a much higher level
of functioning” than the letter. ALJ Decision, AR 27.
Similarly, the ALJ concluded that Dr. Rehman's letter
should receive “little weight” because “it
comes from a checkbox form that is not supported by [Ms.
Williams's] treatment records showing much less
significant symptomatology.” ALJ Decision, AR 27.
Finally, the ALJ gave Dr. Panhebi's letter “little
weight” because it was not supported by Ms.
Williams's psychiatric progress reports or treatment
notes. ALJ Decision, AR 27. In discounting these three
assessments, the ALJ also considered Ms. Williams's
ability to perform the tasks of daily living-such as using
public transit, shopping, cooking, and caring for her son-and
that her symptoms may not be as severe as she stated because
of her “lack of compliance” with medical advice.
ALJ Decision, AR 25. In addition, the ALJ weighed the
opinions of two state agency consultants, who
advised-concerning Ms. Williams's psychiatric
conditions-that she was “moderately” limited in
her ability to concentrate and work with others. ALJ
Decision, AR 26-27; see also AR 73-77,
103-04. The ALJ gave the state consultants'
opinions “some weight” but noted that they
frequently used the term “moderate, ” which
“is vague and can encompass a range of
functioning.” ALJ Decision, AR 27.
after weighing all of the evidence, including the three
assessments, the ALJ concluded that, although “[Ms.
Williams's] medically determinable impairments could be
expected to cause the alleged symptoms, ” “[Ms.
Williams's] statements concerning the intensity,
persistence and limiting effects of these symptoms are not
entirely credible.” ALJ Decision, AR 24-25. In weighing
all of the evidence about Ms. Williams's psychiatric
state, the ALJ concluded that “the more probative
evidence of record” supported that Ms. Williams had
“an ability to perform work within [her identified]
residual functional capacity.” ALJ Decision, AR 28.
Williams sought this Court's review of the ALJ's
decision in accordance with 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c). Compl.
¶ 2, ECF No. 1. Ms. Williams moved for reversal of the
ALJ's decision, Pl.'s Mot. J. Reversal, ECF No. 10,
and Defendant moved for affirmance, Def.'s Mot.
Affirmance & Opp'n Pl.'s Mot., ECF No.
The case was referred to Magistrate Judge Robinson for full
case management. Order (June 15, 2016), ECF No. 9; Docket
Entry (Nov. 29, 2016). Magistrate Judge Robinson's Report
and Recommendation concluded that the ALJ's opinion
should be affirmed. Report & Recommendation (R&R),
ECF No. 16. Ms. Williams objected to the R&R, Pl.'s
Obj. R&R, ECF No. 17, and Defendant responded, Def.'s
Resp. Pl.'s Obj., ECF No. 18.