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Inthavongsy v. Astrue

December 4, 2009


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



Plaintiff Naly Inthavongsy ("Plaintiff") seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying her applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income pursuant to Titles II and 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 filed her applications on March 24, 2006, alleging disability since April 1, 2003, due to depression, headaches, back pain, nightmares, stomach aches and dizziness. AR 109-111, 126-133, 247-253. After being denied initially and on reconsideration, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). AR 66-70, 72-75, 76. On March 25, 2008, ALJ Bert C. Hoffman held a hearing. AR 27-53. He denied benefits on April 25, 2008. AR 8-19. The Appeals Council denied review on July 7, 2008. AR 4-6.

Hearing Testimony

ALJ Hoffman held a hearing on March 25, 2008, in Fresno, California. Plaintiff appeared with her attorney, Melissa Proudian. An interpreter assisted at the hearing. AR 27.

Plaintiff testified that she was born in 1952, and that she was 23 years old when she came to the United States. AR 31. She finished the third grade in Laos and testified that she cannot speak, read or write English. AR 32, 33. She also testified that she forgot how to read and write in her own language. AR 33. Plaintiff was married but did not have children. AR 31. Her husband comes and goes from the home. AR 32. Plaintiff testified that she never had a California driver's license, but had one in Texas. AR 33. She goes places with her sister and eats with her neighbors. AR 34.

Plaintiff testified that she last worked in 2000 at a Levi's sewing factory making pants. AR 34-35. She stopped working when she was laid off. On April 1, 2003, her onset date, Plaintiff explained that she "was having a headache," had low back pain and was heartbroken. AR 36. Her headaches were so bad that she couldn't concentrate. These problems are now worse. She also cannot work because she "can't see," and because of nightmares and fears that someone is coming to kill her. Without her pain medications, she "wanted to die." The pain medications allow her to get by, but without them, she wants to kill herself and her husband. AR 37. She takes ibuprofen 600 mg and Laotian herbals medicines. AR 38. Plaintiff has not had physical therapy, injections or suggestions of surgery for her back. AR 39. Plaintiff thought that she could sit for one hour, stand for about 50 minutes and walk for half a block. AR 39-40.

Plaintiff testified that she rests during the day, four to five times per week, because of her depression. AR 41-42. When asked what causes her depression, she said her husband makes her very angry and anxious, and that she wants to kill him. AR 42. She becomes very depressed two or three times per day and has suicidal thoughts very often. AR 45. Plaintiff began taking medication and receiving treatment at Fresno County Mental Health, but stopped going after no one "took [her] there anymore." AR 43. Plaintiff used to have friends, but she didn't like the way they talked to her. Now she only sees her sister. Plaintiff has no hobbies and does not enjoy doing anything. AR 44.

Plaintiff stated that she has informed Dr. Tu about her suicidal thoughts. She takes five medications, but they only helped her enough "to endure." Her concentration is sometimes good, but there are times when she gets headaches and starts hearing noises. AR 46. She estimated that her concentration was good three to four times per day, for about 10 to 20 minutes at a time. AR 46-47. Other times, she hears "calling noises" and is frustrated and angry. AR 47.

Plaintiff's sister cooks for her, though she could prepare a little snack. Plaintiff does not help with cleaning because her back hurts and she can't bend over. She can do laundry, but it causes pain. During the day, she does not watch television, but walks, sits down and lays down. AR 48-49.

Medical Record*fn3

On June 25, 2006, Plaintiff saw consultive examiner Steven Stoltz, M.D. Her chief complaint was a history of aches and pains. She had no history of blurry vision. Visual acuity with glasses was 20/70 in both eyes, 20/70 in the right eye and 20/100 in the left eye. Visual acuity without glasses was 20/200 in both eyes, 20/200 in the right eye and 20/200 in the left eye. Dr. Stoltz did not note any vision deficiencies or diagnose a vision problem. Dr. Stoltz indicated that he ...

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