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White v. Astrue

September 1, 2010


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



Plaintiff Perry L. White ("Plaintiff") seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying his 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.


Plaintiff filed his applications on February 17, 2006, alleging disability since March 14, 2004, due to shoulder pain and low back pain. AR 129-141, 153-160. After his applications were denied initially and on reconsideration, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). AR 82-83, 91-91, 110-111. ALJ Bert C. Hoffman, Jr., held a hearing on November 24, 2008, and issued an order denying benefits on March 27, 2009. AR 16-23, 24-82. On June 26, 2009, the Appeals Council denied review. AR 6-8.

Hearing Testimony

ALJ Hoffman held a hearing in Fresno, California, on November 24, 2008. Plaintiff attended the hearing with his attorney, Melissa Proudian. AR 24.

Plaintiff testified that he was 34 years old that the time of the hearing. He was 6 feet, 2 inches tall and weighed 365 pounds. AR 27. He lives with his wife and their three children. Plaintiff also has two children that live with their mother, though he sees them almost everyday. AR 28-29.

Plaintiff has a driver's license and drives about three or four times per week to doctor's appointments and church. His driving is limited because he only drives short distances. AR 31.

Plaintiff completed the tenth grade and has not had vocational training. AR 32. He is an assistant pastor and went to Bible classes to get a degree. AR 33.

Plaintiff last worked in 2005 or 2006 as a forklift driver, but he stopped after about three months because he injured his back. AR 33-34. Plaintiff explained that he first injured his back in 2000 and then again in 2003. AR 35. Plaintiff also worked part-time for one month at Costco in 2000. AR 36. He had a worker's compensation case that settled in 2006. AR 43.

Plaintiff testified that he could not work because of back pain, high blood pressure, numbness on his left side and pain in his left shoulder. AR 38-39. He also has problems with his left knee. AR 38. He explained that his back pain is located in the lower part of his back and is worse on the left side. His daily pain rates anywhere from a five to an eight, out of ten. His pain is aggravated by cold air, bending, walking, trying to lift something, reaching with his left hand and turning in an awkward way. AR 39. Plaintiff thought that he could walk for maybe a quarter of a mile before needing to stop. He also uses a cane, prescribed by Dr. Butler in 2004 or 2005, about three times per week. AR 40-42, 47.

Plaintiff thought that he could sit for about 30 minutes, possibly 40 minutes if he isn't in too much pain. AR 48-49. He could stand for about 30 minutes without a cane. He didn't know how much he could lift because when he lifted his son, who weighs about 22 to 25 pounds, he aggravated his back "real bad." He later stated that he could lift 15 pounds. AR 49.

Plaintiff sees chiropractor Dr. Butler for his back and it helps a lot, though it doesn't take away the pain completely. Plaintiff also takes six or seven medications for his pain. The medication takes away the pain because it puts him to sleep, but the pain is still there when he wakes up. AR 52-53.

Plaintiff explained that his day is spent mainly taking medication, trying to reduce the pain in his back and sleeping. AR 56-57. He helps with cooking or cleaning "every blue moon." If his back doesn't hurt too much, he tries to help out a little, but his wife does a majority of the cooking. He thought he cooked about once a month and didn't do any cleaning. AR 58. Plaintiff can get himself dressed but has his children or his wife help with his shoes. He can also take showers. AR 58-59.

When questioned by his attorney, Plaintiff explained that the pain in his lower back shoots down to his left hip and all the way down to his toes. It also goes up into his left shoulder. AR 62.

Plaintiff had surgery in his left shoulder in 2005. He has regained some movement but has pain on a weekly basis. He rated the pain at a five or six. AR 63.

Plaintiff also has pain in his left knee about twice a week, for about 30 minutes to an hour each time. AR 65. It affects his ability to stand, walk and climb stairs. AR 66.

Plaintiff testified that his pain affects his ability to focus and concentrate. He thought he could focus his attention for about an hour or two before needing to take medication and go into a room by himself and pray for the pain to stop. AR 66-67.

Plaintiff preaches on Sundays and teaches on Tuesday and Friday nights. AR 69. He prepares for his sermon throughout the week and tries to prepare for an hour to an hour and a half each day, 10 to 30 minutes at a time. AR 70. He also spends about an hour preparing for his Tuesday night class and about an hour preparing for his Friday night class. AR 70. He has been the sole pastor at his church for about two years. AR ...

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