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Benjamin Moua v. Commissioner of Social Security

December 1, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary S. Austin United States Magistrate Judge



Plaintiff Benjamin Moua ("Plaintiff") seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner" or "Defendant") denying his application for supplemental security income benefits 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 Gary S. Austin, United States Magistrate Judge.*fn1


In August 2005, Plaintiff filed an application for supplemental security income benefits. AR 58-63. Plaintiff's application was denied initially and on reconsideration; thereafter, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). AR 29, 46-57. ALJ Bert C. Hoffman held a hearing and issued an order denying benefits on May 22, 2007, finding that Plaintiff was not disabled. AR 12-18. On July 16, 2010, the Appeals Council denied review. AR 4-6.

Hearing Testimony

ALJ Hoffman held a hearing on May 7, 2007, in Fresno, California. Plaintiff appeared and testified; he was represented by attorney Melissa Proudian. Plaintiff was also assisted by a Hmong language interpreter. AR 169-203.

On the date of the hearing, Plaintiff was twenty-five years old. At five feet, eight inches tall, he weighs 349 pounds. AR 172. His normal weight should be about 180 pounds, however, he last weighed 180 pounds in the third grade. AR 172-173; see also AR 198. Plaintiff is not married and does not have any children. AR 173.

Plaintiff does not have a driver's license and does not know how to drive. He has tried more than five times to pass the exam for his permit but has been unable to do so. AR 173-174. His primary mode of transportation is the bus. AR 174. When his bike is in good working condition, he will also use it to get around. AR 174-175.

Although he graduated from high school, Plaintiff attended special education classes due to a learning disability. He has difficulty understanding instructions. AR 176. He can read the newspaper and follows sports. AR 176-180. After attending Hoover High School for three years, Plaintiff was transferred to McLane High School after hitting another student with a lock. AR 193-194. He received vocational training in 2004, learning janitorial skills. AR 180-182.

During the course, he performed janitorial duties at Fresno Adult school, but has not worked as a janitor since that time. AR 182. He believes he could perform the work of a janitor were he to be offered such a job. AR 183.

Plaintiff has no work history. He has difficulty completing job applications. AR 182. He applied for a position as a janitor at Target, using its computer application program. AR 184-185. When he was asked what type of work he would like to do, Plaintiff indicated he would like to be a master fisherman and skipper his own boat. AR 197.

Other than his weight, Plaintiff indicated his knees and back keep him from working. AR 186. Both knees hurt, and his knees are more painful than his back. AR 186-187. He feels pain in his knees when it is cold. AR 187. He does not take either prescription medication or over the counter medication to treat these conditions. AR 187-188. With regard to his weight, Plaintiff has tried dieting in the past, but always gains the weight back. AR 188. He has never been on an exercise program. AR 198.

Plaintiff can go to the store and purchase food items. AR 190-191, 198-199. He does not cook, but can heat food up in a microwave. AR 191. Around the house, Plaintiff enjoys vacuuming and watching television. AR 202. He spends time with his family, and his brothers help him. AR 201. He does not have other friends. AR 201. He does not have, nor has he ever had, a girlfriend. AR 202.

To help control his anger, Plaintiff goes to Fresno County Mental Health about once a month. AR 192-193. When he gets angry, he throws things. AR 193. He gets angry and sad when people look at him. AR 200-201. When he gets sad, he cries "[a] little bit" and takes a walk. AR 201.

Medical Record

The medical record was reviewed by the Court. AR 106-168. The medical evidence will be referenced below as necessary to this Court's decision.

ALJ's Findings

Using the Social Security Administration's five-step sequential evaluation process, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not meet the disability standard. AR 12-18.

More particularly, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 5, 2005. AR 14. Further, the ALJ identified borderline intellectual functioning as a severe impairment. AR 14. Nonetheless, the ALJ determined that the severity of Plaintiff's ...

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