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Bridgett R. Mcgill v. Michael J. Astrue

January 23, 2012


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



Plaintiff Bridgett R. McGill ("Plaintiff") seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying her 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 her application on July 12, 2007, alleging disability since August 13, 1998, due to post traumatic stress disorder ("PTSD"), high blood pressure and right leg pain. AR 125-131, 143-149. After her application was denied initially and on reconsideration, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). AR 66, 76, 96. ALJ Sharon Madsen held a hearing on July 9, 2009, and issued a decision denying benefits on December 11, 2009. AR 6-16, 17-65. The Appeals Council denied review on January 28, 2011. AR 1-4.

Hearing Testimony

ALJ Madsen held a hearing on July 9, 2009, in Fresno, California. Plaintiff was not represented by an attorney. Vocational expert ("VE") Thomas Dachelet and witness Marvin Graham also appeared and testified. AR 17.

Plaintiff testified that she was born in 1966. She received disability benefits previously for depression and PTSD, but they ended when she was incarcerated in October 2006. AR 27. Plaintiff is separated from her husband because he beat her and she hasn't seen her kids in 15 years. AR 28-29. Plaintiff lives in a trailer with her friend and was receiving food stamps and general relief. AR 29. Plaintiff does not have a driver's license and tries to walk when she needs to go errands or appointments. AR 29. She cannot walk now because of her leg, however, so she hasn't been going anywhere. AR 30.

Plaintiff completed the sixth grade. She was in prison from February 2009 to May 2009 for "credit debt." AR 30, 45. She also served a year in 2006 and was in and out between 2007 and 2009. AR 31. Plaintiff used cocaine growing up and some incarcerations were based on a failure to complete a program. AR 46.

Plaintiff testified that she cannot bend down because of her legs and she can't do many household chores. She can do a few dishes and some pick-up. She does not cook but can make a sandwich or a bowl of cereal. AR 31-32. She also shops. AR 32. Plaintiff does not like to go out too much anymore because she "[has] a lot of things happening to [her]" and gets nervous around people sometimes. She's also been having a lot of nightmares and is afraid of knives. AR 32, 51.

During a typical day, Plaintiff watches television a lot. She cannot read. She also goes to the Hope House, where they offer games, counseling and computers. She also sleeps a lot during the day. AR 33.

Plaintiff worked for Taco Bell for 3 months in the 1990s, but became depressed and stopped working. She also received income from the Madera Convalescent Hospital for washing dishes. AR 34. She also worked at McDonalds cooking french fries but burned herself and had to stop. AR 34.

When asked about her leg, Plaintiff could not remember what the doctors told her was wrong, but she said she might need an operation. AR 35. Plaintiff has pain in her knee all day. The pain goes into her hip and sometimes down to her toes. She has a cane, but forgot to pick it up. AR 35-36. Plaintiff was taking Lortab and Tramadol for pain. She tries to keep her foot up but can't hold it up for long because of pain. She also cannot bend the leg and the foot is swollen. Walking and standing too long aggravate the pain. AR 36-37.

Plaintiff also has high blood pressure, asthma and diabetes. AR 37. Plaintiff uses her inhaler 3 times a day and although she still smokes, she smokes less. AR 38. She spent 7 days in the hospital recently because her asthma got really bad. Plaintiff was not taking medication for diabetes. AR 40.

Plaintiff was also taking Trazodone to help her sleep and had taken medication for depression years ago. AR 41. Plaintiff explained that she feels sad and has nightmares about her father, who raped her when she was 11, put her in a closet for 2 weeks and sold her to a pimp. AR 42. Her brother also cut her arm and stabbed her in the back. She explained that in her nightmares, she feels like her father is coming to get her. She is sometimes scared to go to sleep, but the medication helps. AR 42. Plaintiff also thinks about suicide and was hospitalized 8 times for suicide attempts. The most recent hospitalization was last year. AR 43.

Plaintiff has a hard time remembering sometimes. She doesn't have too many friends anymore because it is hard for her trust people and she's always afraid something will happen to her. AR 45. She sees a doctor for medications and a counselor once a month for individual therapy. AR 46-47. She also goes to group therapy at the Hope House. AR 47.

Plaintiff thought that she could carry one gallon of water. She can sit down, but her knee hurts when she bends her legs. AR 49. Plaintiff thought that she could stand for about 5 minutes and walk for half of a block. AR 50.

Marvin Graham, who has known Plaintiff for at least 23 years, also testified. AR 53. When asked what he could add to Plaintiff's testimony, Mr. Graham confirmed that Plaintiff jumped out of his car "scared" and for no reason, years ago. He also has to calm her down when he cuts chicken with a knife because she gets scared. AR 54-55. Plaintiff also "gets suicidal" and runs into the middle of traffic. AR 55.

Mr. Graham lives with Plaintiff and testified that she doesn't take her medication like she should. AR 55. Mr. Graham reminds her to take her medication. Plaintiff becomes very unpredictable, where she's fine one minute and terrible the next, and Mr. Graham fears for himself. AR 56. He also explained that Plaintiff always talks about things that happened in the past and how she is in the world by herself. AR 56, 59.

For the first hypothetical, the ALJ asked the VE to assume a person of the same age, education and background, with no exertional limitations but with a limitation to simple, routine tasks. AR 60. Plaintiff could perform her past work in fast food as a dishwasher or cook. Plaintiff could also perform the medium jobs of extractor/operator and packager. AR 60-61.

For the second hypothetical, the ALJ asked the VE to assume a person who could lift and carry 60 pounds occasionally, 25 pounds frequently, and sit, stand and walk for 6 hours, with a limitation to simple, routine tasks. The VE ...

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