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Ramon v. Astrue

February 19, 2009

JOSE TELLO RAMON, 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 Jose Tello Ramon filed a complaint on December 7, 2007, seeking review of the Commissioner's decision denying his application for disability benefits. The Commissioner answered the complaint on April 21, 2008, and the parties filed a joint stipulation on June 11, 2008.

BACKGROUND

I.

On February 18, 2003 (protective filing date), plaintiff applied for disability benefits under the Supplemental Security Income program ("SSI") of Title XVI of the Social Security Act ("the Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 1382(a), claiming an inability to work since January 1, 2000, due to hypothyroidism, diabetes mellitus, vision difficulties, and back pain. Certified Administrative Record ("A.R.") 71-74, 84. The plaintiff's application was initially denied on June 13, 2003, and was denied again on July 23, 2003, following reconsideration. A.R. 28-38. The plaintiff then requested an administrative hearing, which was held on September 1, 2005, before Administrative Law Judge F. Keith Varni ("the ALJ"). A.R. 39-41, 49-51, 160-71. On November 3, 2005, the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff is not disabled.*fn1 A.R. 11-19.

The plaintiff appealed this decision to the Appeals Council, which denied review on February 2, 2006. A.R. 6-10.

The plaintiff then filed a civil complaint challenging the Commissioner's decision: Ramon v. Astrue, case no. EDCV 06-0191-RC ("Ramon I").*fn2 On September 7, 2006, pursuant to the parties' stipulation, judgment was entered remanding the application for further proceedings under sentence four, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). A.R. 203-09. On July 25, 2007, the ALJ held a new administrative hearing,*fn3 A.R. 478-84, and on August 29, 2007, the ALJ issued a decision again finding plaintiff is not disabled. A.R. 172-84.

II.

The plaintiff, who was born on November 5, 1939, is currently 69 years old. A.R. 72, 225, 231. He has a third-grade education and cannot read, write or speak English. A.R. 83, 87. He has previously worked repairing pallets. A.R. 84-85, 90-92.

Since March 25, 2003, plaintiff has received treatment at the Rialto Clinica Medica Familiar, where Ruben Ruiz, M.D., diagnosed plaintiff with lower back pain, renal insufficiency, diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism, hypertension, and peripheral neuropathy, among other conditions. A.R. 115-46, 366-449. On December 8, 2005, plaintiff's diabetes was uncontrolled, and he was placed off work through December 31, 2005. A.R. 410. On July 31, 2006, Dr. Ruiz opined plaintiff was permanently incapacitated due to congestive heart failure,*fn4 diabetes mellitus complicated by congestive heart failure, retinopathy,*fn5 and hypertension. A.R. 409.

On June 12, 2003, Bahaa B. Girgis, M.D., examined plaintiff and diagnosed him with type II diabetes mellitus with no evidence of diabetic retinopathy or neuropathy, decreased right eye visual acuity, which was 20/200 due to glaucoma, and a history of hypertension and chronic liver disease. A.R. 112-14. Dr. Girgis opined plaintiff can occasionally lift and/or carry up to 50 pounds, frequently lift and/or carry up to up to 25 pounds, and can stand/walk and sit for 6 hours each in an 8-hour day. A.R. 114.

On June 23, 2004, Alvin Chang, M.D., examined plaintiff at the Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, where he diagnosed plaintiff with Type II diabetes mellitus under moderate control, stable congestive heart failure, stable hypertension, stable hypothyroidism and obesity, among other conditions, and referred plaintiff to a podiatrist. A.R. 308-10. On June 29, 2004, Sang D. Lee, D.P.M., a podiatrist, examined plaintiff and diagnosed him as having diabetes mellitus with neuropathy and ankle joint pain. A.R. 307. Dr. Lee continued to treat plaintiff, diagnosing him at various times with degenerative joint disease, left foot cellulitis, plantar fasciitis, gout, and Morton's neuroma,*fn6 among other conditions. A.R. 293-306, 355-65. Nerve conduction velocity studies obtained on January 15, 2007, were consistent with mild sensory peripheral neuropathy and demyelination pathology consistent with a history of diabetes mellitus. A.R. 355-60.

On February 21, 2006, Kimberley R. Clements, M.D., examined plaintiff and diagnosed him with complaints of back, knee and feet pain and bad vision. A.R. 280-85. Plaintiff's vision without correction was less than 20/200 in his right eye and 20/30 in his left eye, but with pinhole correction, it was 20/100 in his right eye and 20/40 in his left eye. A.R. 286. Dr. Clements opined plaintiff can occasionally lift 50 pounds, frequently lift 25 pounds, sit without limitation, stand and walk for 6 hours in an 8-hour day, and push and pull without limitation. A.R. 284.

On December 28, 2006, Nicholas N. Lin, M.D., examined plaintiff and concluded plaintiff can: occasionally lift and/or carry up to 50 pounds; frequently lift and/or carry up to 25 pounds, bend, stoop, crouch, kneel, and climb stairs; stand or walk for 6 hours in an 8-hour workday with appropriate breaks; and sit for 6 hours in an 8-hour workday. A.R. 320-26. A visual acuity test was 20/100 in both eyes, less than 20/200 in both eyes tested ...


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