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Baines v. Astrue

December 11, 2008

JANEL FLORES BAINES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rosalyn M. Chapman United States Magistrate Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Janel Flores Baines filed a complaint on September 25, 2007, seeking review of the Commissioner's decision denying her applications for disability benefits. The Commissioner answered the complaint on February 4, 2008, and the parties filed a joint stipulation on March 25, 2008.

BACKGROUND

I.

On January 5, 2005, plaintiff applied for disability benefits under both Title II of the Social Security Act ("Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 423, and the Supplemental Security Income program ("SSI") of Title XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1382(a), claiming an inability to work since January 3, 2003, due to back pain and hip injuries. Certified Administrative Record ("A.R.") 12, 51-55, 63-64. The plaintiff's applications were initially denied on June 2, 2005, and were denied again on October 14, 2005, following reconsideration. A.R. 33-47. The plaintiff then requested an administrative hearing, which was held before Administrative Law Judge F. Keith Varni ("the ALJ") on January 26, 2007. A.R. 30, 209-23. On February 6, 2007, the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff is not disabled. A.R. 9-19. The plaintiff appealed the decision to the Appeals Council, which denied review on July 26, 2007. A.R. 4-8.

II.

The plaintiff, who was born on March 6, 1977, is currently 31 years old. A.R. 51, 211. She has an eleventh-grade education, has trained to be a certified nurse's assistant, and previously worked as a telephone service provider. A.R. 56-62, 64-65, 68, 212, 214.

On January 9, 2003, plaintiff was hospitalized at the Arrowhead Regional Medical Center ("ARMC"), where she gave birth to a son, who weighed 12 pounds, 6 ounces. A.R. 120-30, 208. A pubiotomy*fn1 and symphysiotomy*fn2 were performed to aid the delivery. A.R. 121, 127. On January 17, 2003, plaintiff was doing well and walking without help. A.R. 90. On March 6, 2004, plaintiff was admitted to ARMC, where she underwent a cesarean section and tubal ligation. A.R. 107-19.

On December 30, 2004, Harold Luke, M.D., examined plaintiff and diagnosed her with morbid obesity and right hip pain. A.R. 136. Lumbar spine x-rays taken January 23, 2006, were normal, while right hip x-rays taken the same day showed at least 3 cm. of diastasis*fn3 of the pubic symphysis, with no evidence of fracture. A.R. 158-59.

On May 20, 2005, Buneri T. Sophon, M.D., examined plaintiff, diagnosed her with a history of an operative cut in the pubic bone, and opined plaintiff "does not have any significant physical impairment and there are no functional limitations." A.R. 139-43.

On May 31, 2005, nonexamining physician George G. Spellman, M.D., opined plaintiff can occasionally lift and/or carry 50 pounds, frequently lift and/or carry 25 pounds, and can sit, stand and/or walk for 6 hours in an 8-hour work day. A.R. 147-54. On September 26, 2005, nonexamining physician John Meek, M.D., agreed with this assessment, stating there is no evidence of a severe physical impairment. A.R. 156.

On April 20, 2006, plaintiff was treated in the emergency room at Redlands Community Hospital for dysfunctional uterine bleeding and dehydration. A.R. 196-97. Bilateral hip x-rays taken October 5, 2006, were negative, while pelvic x-rays demonstrated a 3-cm. pubic diastasis, which appeared to be chronic, with mild associated bilateral SI joint degenerative changes and a solitary metallic surgical clip in the right upper pelvic tissues. A.R. 185. Plaintiff was again seen in the emergency room on December 22, 2006, when she was diagnosed with anemia, general malaise, and menorrhagia,*fn4 among other things. A.R. 186-87, 193-95. An electrocardiogram was abnormal, but chest x-rays were normal. A.R. 191-92.

On June 6, 2006, plaintiff was examined at the New Millennium Medical Associates, when she was diagnosed with depression, chronic back pain, and obesity, and she was prescribed Wellbutrin.*fn5 A.R. 174-75. However, plaintiff never filled ...


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