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Luevano v. Astrue

February 3, 2009

CAROL LUEVANO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: VICTOR B. Kenton United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER (Social Security Case)

This matter is before the Court for review of the decision by the Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff's application for disability benefits. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(c), the parties have consented that the case may be handled by the Magistrate Judge. The action arises under 42 U.S.C. §405(g), which authorizes the Court to enter judgment upon the pleadings and transcript of the record before the Commissioner. The parties have filed the Joint Stipulation ("JS"), and the Commissioner has filed the certified Administrative Record ("AR").

Plaintiff raises the following issues:

1. Whether the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") considered the State Agency physician's opinion regarding her functional limitations;

2. Whether the ALJ considered the actual physical and mental demands of Plaintiff's past relevant work ("PRW");

3. Whether the ALJ properly considered lay witness testimony; and

4. Whether the ALJ properly considered the side effects of Plaintiff's medications.

This Memorandum Opinion will constitute the Court's findings of fact and conclusions of law. After reviewing the matter, the Court concludes that the decision of the Commissioner must be affirmed.

I. THE ALJ DID NOT COMMIT ERROR IN HIS CONSIDERATION OF THE STATE AGENCY PHYSICIAN'S OPINIONS REGARDING PLAINTIFF'S FUNCTIONAL ABILITIES AND LIMITATIONS

In her first issue, Plaintiff asserts that the ALJ failed to consider the report of State Agency physician Dr. Rose that Plaintiff cannot balance, and can only occasionally climb ramps and stairs, stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl. (JS at 3, citing AR at 420.)

Plaintiff was also examined by Dr. Sabourin, an orthopedic consultative examiner ("CE"), who saw Plaintiff on December 13, 2005 at the request of the Department of Social Services. (AR 426-430.) Based on that examination, Dr. Sabourin assessed that, "From a prophylactic viewpoint, I do not feel she should lift or carry more than 20 pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently. She can stand and walk up to six hours of an eight-hour work day and sit for six hours of an eight-hour work day. She can climb, stoop, kneel and crouch only occasionally. She has no manipulative limitations. Her push and pull limitations are the same as the lift and carry limitations." (AR 430.)

These assessments of Plaintiff's residual functional capacity ("RFC") are consistent with the capability of performing light work. (See SSR 83-10 for definition of light work.) Moreover, Plaintiff's own description of her past relevant work as a florist in a flower shop encompassed standing and walking four hours each, and sitting for one hour, climbing for one hour, no stooping, kneeling, crouching or crawling, two hours of handling, grabbing or grasping big objects, one hour of reaching, and one hour of writing, typing, or handling small objects. She indicated the heaviest weight she lifted was 20 pounds.*fn1 (AR 105-106.)

The ALJ gave great weight to the opinion of the CE, finding his conclusions to be consistent with the objective medical records and giving Plaintiff every benefit of the doubt. (AR 23.) He therefore concluded that Plaintiff has the RFC to perform a full range of light work. (AR 20.)

Plaintiff's argument regarding the alleged disregard by the ALJ of the State Agency physician's opinions is itself somewhat perplexing, because the RFC assessment of that physician was not inconsistent with that of the CE, which the ALJ adopted. Finally, the "occasional" limitations in some functional abilities, such as climbing and balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching and ...


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