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Wright v. Astrue

May 18, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dennis L. Beck United States Magistrate Judge



Plaintiff Thomas Wayne Wright ("Plaintiff") seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying his application for supplemental security income ("SSI") pursuant to Title XVI of the Social Security Act. The matter is currently before the Court on the parties' briefs, which were submitted, without oral argument, to the Honorable Dennis L. Beck, United States Magistrate Judge.*fn1


Plaintiff protectively applied for social security income on December 17, 2004, alleging disability since April 20, 2000, due to a bad back, right knee, left arm, left shoulder and tingling and numbness in both hands. AR 252-54, 257. After being denied initially and on reconsideration, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). AR 216, 234-38, 240-244, 245. On April 25, 2006, ALJ James Ross held a hearing. AR 1104-24. ALJ Ross denied benefits on July 27, 2006. AR 12-23. On April 18, 2008, the Appeals Council denied review. AR 7-10.

Hearing Testimony

ALJ Ross held a hearing on April 25, 2006, in Fresno, California. Plaintiff appeared with his attorney, Melissa Proudian. AR 1106.

In response to questions from his attorney, Plaintiff testified that he mainly suffered from back pain and knee pain. AR 1111. On further questioning, he testified that he constantly has problems with depression, but did not know if it would interfere with his ability to work. AR 1112. He also has weight problems. AR 1112.

Plaintiff testified that he has pain in his mid to lower back. AR 1112. He would generally rate his pain about an eight, eight and one half, out of ten with or without medications. AR 1112. He did not think the medications were working. AR 1112. He is on Vicodin ES, Somas, and "diazide" for high blood pressure. AR 1112-13. The Vicodin ES, which he takes four times a day, eases the pain. AR 1113. He does not have any side effects from it. AR 1113.

Plaintiff also testified that he went to the emergency room more than five times in the year prior to the hearing. AR 1115. He goes to the emergency because his back locks up, he falls and the pain is really severe. AR 1115. The last time he fell, he cracked his right hip, but did not have to stay in the hospital. AR 1115-16. He had an x-ray, but did not have any treatment after he left the hospital. AR 1116. An MRI was ordered, but he did not fit into the machine. AR 1116.

Plaintiff testified that he thinks the back pain affects his ability to function. AR 1116. He was not sure how, but testified that it is hard for him to concentrate on anything because he is in constant pain. AR 1116. He can concentrate for a half hour to an hour at one time before having to take a 45 minute break. AR 1116-17. During the break, he would lie down and rest. AR 1117. He lies down about six times a day for a half hour or an hour. AR 1117.

Plaintiff testified that he has difficulty sitting in a chair because of pain and discomfort from his size and his back. AR 1117-18. The longest he can sit is 45 minutes. AR 1118. When he gets up, his back locks up and he falls. AR 1118. He can stand for five minutes and then his back starts to kink up. AR 1118. He has a cane, which his neurologist, "Dr. Schohan," gave to him. AR 1118. He is supposed to use it every day, but he only uses it when his back is really severe and he has a fear that he is going to fall. AR 1118-19. He uses it about three days a week because he does not want to get too dependent on it. AR 1119. He has difficulty walking when he is not using it and he needs to put his hand on something in case he starts to fall. AR 1119.

Plaintiff testified that he could walk 50 to 100 feet before he would have to lean on something or stop. AR 1119. He does not lift anything except his cane, which is under ten pounds. AR 1119-20. He can lift a plate of food and he can lift his clothes. AR 1120. He can dress himself except for his shoes and socks. AR 1120. He sits on a stool in the shower. AR 1120. He does not sleep very well at night because of back pain. AR 1120.

Plaintiff thought his high blood pressure was under control. AR 1120. He takes his medication as prescribed. AR 1120. He has not ...

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