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Craghill-Quinn v. Astrue

April 17, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary S. Austin United States Magistrate Judge



Plaintiff Shelley L. Craghill-Quinn ("Plaintiff") seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying her application for supplemental security income pursuant to the Social Security Act. The matter is currently before the Court on the parties' briefs, which were submitted, without oral argument, to the Honorable Gary S. Austin, United States Magistrate Judge.*fn1


Plaintiff filed her application on May 25, 2005, alleging disability since August 3, 2004, due to lumbar degenerative disc disease. AR 120-122. Her application was denied initially and on reconsideration, and Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). AR 41, 104-109, 112-116. ALJ Bert C. Hoffman, Jr., held a hearing on September 10, 2007, and issued an order denying benefits on December 19, 2007. AR 51-88. On May 2, 2008, the Appeals Council denied review. AR 5-7.

Hearing Testimony

ALJ Hoffman held a hearing on September 10, 2007, in Fresno, California. Plaintiff appeared and testified. She was represented by Robert Ishikawa. AR 51-88.

Plaintiff testified that she was 49 years old at the time of the hearing. She graduated high school and has a couple years in college and/or trade school, yet did not earn a degree. AR 54. She is a certified massage therapist and completed secretarial training. AR 56. Additionally, she completed vocational training in hypnotherapy. AR 56-57. In 2000 through 2001, Plaintiff worked as a cashier clerk at a casino in Lemoore. AR 58. She last worked as a massage therapist in 1998. AR 59.

Plaintiff reported that she suffered from severe pain in her lower back and tailbone that makes it difficult for her to sit for long periods of time. She also suffers from chronic fatigue. AR 60. She has been seeing Dr. Sorensen in Hanford since 2003 for these symptoms, on average of once a month. AR 60-61. Within the previous twelve months, she has received about three injections for pain she feels in her tailbone and lower back that will sometimes radiate down her legs. AR 61-62.

A CT scan in 2005 showed a fractured vertebra for which there is no treatment. She was told she had severe degenerative disc disease and that there was nothing that could be done. Surgery has not been suggested. AR 62. Asked to describe her pain, she stated that it is accompanied by severe fatigue such that she cannot leave the couch some days. She is tired everyday. AR 62-63.

She cannot stand for very long so she will take frequent breaks. She can no longer sweep, for instance, and takes numerous breaks while vacuuming. She cooks and washes the dishes, but does so sitting down. AR 63-64. The most weight she can lift is five to ten pounds, no more than three to four times a day. AR 64, 68. She can stand for ten to fifteen minutes before she must sit down as a result of the severe pain in her spine. AR 68. If she were employed eight hours a day, she guessed she could stand no more than two hours, and could sit comfortably for an hour or hour and a half total. AR 69.

Plaintiff has been married about two years. Her husband is disabled due to dementia and a past back injury. Her twelve-year old daughter lives with them, yet for a nine-month period was removed by Child Protective Services. Her daughter has since returned to the home. AR 65. Connected to the CPS intervention, Plaintiff was required to attend parent training on a weekly basis for sixteen weeks, and completed a related training program on own over a one year period. AR 66-68; see also AR 224-262, 364-453.

Plaintiff testified that she often lies down during the day, several times a day, for a total of four to five hours a day. AR 69-70. She has been using a cane for about a year, and testified that Dr. Sorensen prescribed a walker, but that she did not yet have one. AR 70.

Plaintiff obtains mental health treatment from Christine Fields at Kings View Mental Health on a weekly basis, and sees Dr. Wajda for prescription medications to treat anxiety, agitation, frustration, and nervousness. AR 71. She is currently taking buspar for anxiety. AR 72. She has difficulty concentrating and focusing on subjects that do not interest her. AR 72-73. With regard to housework, Plaintiff testified that her daughter does the sweeping and mopping because she can no longer do so because of the pain. She cooks one meal a day, sitting down. She does the laundry. Her daughter assists her in yard work. AR 73. For example, she worked in the side yard recently and had to stop because of the pain in her back. She asked her daughter to complete the task of mowing that area. Her daughter maintains the front yard, and the back yard was "let go." AR 74.

Plaintiff performs any necessary driving duties for her family. She tries to limit her driving because it causes her pain, and estimated that she drives every other day on average. AR 74-75.

She believes she watches about four hours of television a day. She reads every day and enjoys mystery novels. AR 75. If she cannot sleep, she reads. She also reads during the day because she hates watching television all the time. AR 76.

She no longer makes crafts like she used to. Her house is small and it is difficult to do. AR 76. She has three small dogs. AR 76-77. Her husband's disabilities require her to do the driving and keep an eye on him because she is afraid he is going to fall. He also suffers from Parkinson's. AR 77. She does not like to leave her husband alone, but he too has difficulty walking and does not always go with her to do the grocery shopping. AR 78.

Plaintiff's daughter is twelve years old and in the seventh grade. AR 78. She participated in Little League last year, but does not currently participate in a sports activity. When her daughter participated previously, Plaintiff would attend every game. AR 79.

Plaintiff currently resides in Armona, having moved there from the Visalia area in June of 2006. AR 80. Her best friend Patty lives in the Long Beach area, but her friend Cindy still resides in the area. They used to play darts; now they get together and chat. AR 81-83.

Plaintiff currently takes Vicodin and Voltaren for pain. The Vicodin makes her sleepy, and as a result, she takes it three times a day, versus four times a day. AR 83-84. She takes her first dose at about 6 a.m. and is able to get her daughter off to school despite the side effects. AR 84. She takes the ...

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