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Guzman v. Astrue

April 5, 2010

GUSTAVO GUZMAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



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

ORDER REGARDING PLAINTIFF'S SOCIAL SECURITY COMPLAINT

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Gustavo Guzman ("Plaintiff"), proceeding pro se, seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying his application for disability insurance benefits pursuant to Title II 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.

FACTS AND PRIOR PROCEEDINGS*fn1

Plaintiff filed an application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") on July 29, 1992, which was denied. AR 8, 50. Plaintiff subsequently applied for SSI on April 24, 1998. AR 50. When Plaintiff originally applied for SSI in July 1992, no Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") claim was taken. AR 50. The Commissioner subsequently allowed Plaintiff to pursue a claim for DIB benefits. AR 8, 50.

Plaintiff alleged disability since January 28, 1985, due to lower back problems. AR 50, 87. Plaintiff's last date insured was September 30, 1990, and only the period from January 28, 1985 to September 30, 1990 is at issue. AR 8, 49-50, 82. After his DIB application was denied initially and on reconsideration, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). AR 47, 48, 52-55, 57-61, 62-69. ALJ Laura Speck Havens held a hearing on April 2, 2008, and denied benefits on June 13, 2008. AR 5-14, 16-25. On September 25, 2008, the Appeals Council denied review. AR 1-3.

Hearing Testimony

ALJ Havens held a hearing on April 2, 2008, in Stockton, California. Plaintiff appeared without a representative. A Spanish-English interpreter also appeared. AR 18.

At the outset of the hearing, the ALJ noted that Plaintiff appeared without an attorney or a representative. The ALJ offered to postpone the case to allow Plaintiff the opportunity to talk to an attorney. Plaintiff stated he did not need an attorney and wanted to go ahead. AR 18. The ALJ also indicated that Plaintiff might be entitled to free legal services if he qualified and again asked him if he wanted the opportunity to look for an attorney. Plaintiff responded that he tried to look for a lawyer, but no one would help him. The ALJ offered him another opportunity, but Plaintiff wanted to proceed with the hearing. AR 19.

Plaintiff stated that he already was on SSI benefits. AR 20. He was born in 1955 and completed the fifth grade in Mexico. He was hardly able to read in English. He suffered an onthe-job injury in September 1984 and has low back pain. AR 21.

As to his daily activities in 1990, Plaintiff testified that he lived in a house with his wife and daughters. During the relevant time period, he did not do any household chores. He would take his wife grocery shopping and take the girls to the doctor. He went to his doctor frequently. He exercised for his back 10 or 15 minutes. He watched TV. He could drive without pain for a half hour to an hour. AR 21-22.

In 1990, his treating doctor was Dr. Soto. Plaintiff was taking Tylenol and Dr. Soto gave him therapy. AR 22-23.

Plaintiff testified that in the period before 1990 he was able to walk or stand for a very short time. He had problems sitting because the pain radiated to his upper back. He was able to sit without pain about a half hour. AR 23. The most he could lift was 20 pounds. He would feel pain in the middle of his back. It felt ...


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