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Smith v. Astrue

April 16, 2010


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



Plaintiff Deshone Lee Smith ("Plaintiff") seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying his application for supplemental security income 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.


Plaintiff filed his application on April 9, 2003, alleging disability since June 1, 1998, due to mild mental retardation, seizures and a lower back injury. AR 69-71, 73-82. After his application was denied initially and on reconsideration, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). AR 50-53, 56-59, 60. ALJ Stanley R. Hogg held a hearing on June 13, 2007, and denied benefits on July 2, 2007. AR 11-25, 411-439. The Appeals Council denied review on January 14, 2009. AR 4-6.

Hearing Testimony

ALJ Hogg held a hearing on June 13, 2007, in Sacramento, California. Plaintiff appeared by telephone and was represented by Geoffrey Hayden. AR 411.

Plaintiff testified that he has been incarcerated since July 2005 and was currently housed at Mule Creek State Prison. AR 418, 420. He testified that he was 30 years old at the time of the hearing and completed the second grade. AR 417. Plaintiff has never been able to read or write. AR 423.

Plaintiff explained that he could not work because of lower back problems and depression. AR 424. He rated his back pain at a six and testified that he uses a cane to walk. AR 428. He was taking medication for seizures and depression, and to help him sleep. Dilantin helps control his seizures, though he last had a grand mal seizure three months ago. AR 424-425. He testified that he was considered mildly mentally retarded as a child. AR 425.

Plaintiff also testified that he sometimes has problems with his ankles, shoulders and hands. He also gets headaches often and takes aspirin. AR 427. He thought he could stand for about 30 minutes and could not kneel, stoop or squat to the ground without pain. AR 429.

Plaintiff did not believe he was getting better and explained that he has lost interest in things and often feels worthless and hopeless. He has attempted suicide. AR 429-480. Plaintiff is also paranoid and has crying spells and hallucinations. AR 430. He attends mental health groups in prison. AR 433.

Medical Record

Plaintiff received treatment between December 2000 and March 2003 while incarcerated through the California Department of Corrections. AR 114-214. In February 2002, Plaintiff was restricted from work around moving machinery, heights and other hazards because of his seizure disorder. He was also restricted to lower bunk/low tier housing. AR 140. In August 2002, Plaintiff reported that he was mildly mentally retarded and that he "burnt [his] school at eight years old." On examination, he was described as charming and friendly with a euthymic mood and no evidence of mild mental retardation. His memory and attention were within normal limits. AR 126. The evaluator concluded that Plaintiff no longer met the criteria for inclusion in the mental health treatment population. AR 125.

On June 7, 2003, Plaintiff saw Emanuel Dozier, M.D., for a consultive physical examination. He complained of chronic low back pain and a seizure disorder. On examination, Plaintiff walked with no signs of pain and was able to sit during the interview without discomfort. He had normal muscle tone in his back though there was point tenderness in the lumbar back area in the paravertebral muscles. Straight leg raising was positive at 30 degrees and in the sitting position. Plaintiff had pain on range of motion testing of his lumbar back. Motor strength and grip strength were normal. Dr. Dozier diagnosed back pain and a history of a seizure disorder. He opined that Plaintiff would be restricted to occasional bending, stooping or crouching. Plaintiff could not work on scaffolding or around moving machinery. Plaintiff could lift and carry 50 pounds occasionally and 20 pounds frequently and could stand and/or walk for six hours. AR 215-219.

A lumbar spine x-ray taken on June 7, 2003, was normal. AR 220. On June 17, 2003, Plaintiff saw Shailesh C. Patel for a psychiatric examination. He reported problems with depression and explained that he was abused as a child. Plaintiff also complained of anxiety when he goes to sleep, and reported hearing voices that tell him to hurt other people. During the day, he sometimes sits and talks to himself. He has never worked. AR 221. On mental status examination, Plaintiff's affect was appropriate and he described his mood "confused and depressed." He ...

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