The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barbara A. McAuliffe United States Magistrate Judge
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS REGARDING PLAINTIFF'S SOCIAL SECURITY COMPLAINT
Plaintiff Stephen Arthur ("Plaintiff") seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner" or "Defendant") denying his application for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") 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 Magistrate Judge Barbara A. McAuliffe, for findings and recommendations to the District Court.
FACTS AND PRIOR PROCEEDINGS*fn1
Plaintiff filed an application for social security disability insurance benefits on August 3, 2008, alleging disability beginning December 2, 2006. AR 74, 128-34. Plaintiff's application was denied initially and on reconsideration. AR 79, 88. Subsequently, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). AR 35. ALJ Timothy Snelling held a hearing on October 20, 2009, and issued an order denying benefits on April 10, 2010. AR 23-31. Subsequently, the Appeals Council set aside the ALJ's decision to consider additional evidence. Upon further review, the Appeals Council issued a decision affirming the ALJ's order. AR 1-5. This appeal followed.
ALJ Snelling held a hearing in Stockton, California, on October 20, 2009. AR 35. Plaintiff personally appeared and was assisted by attorney Jeffrey Milam. AR 35.
Plaintiff was forty-seven years old at the time of the hearing. AR 43. He is married and lives with his wife, ten-month old son, sixteen-year old daughter, and twenty-year old son. AR 43-44. Plaintiff has his GED, completed some college, and is a retired reserve police officer. AR 44, 45.
Plaintiff testified that the primary reason he was unable to work was due to joint stiffness and osteoarthritis. AR 39-40. According to Plaintiff, he had stiffness in his back, hips, hands, knees, and feet. AR 40-41. When asked about the pain in his feet, Plaintiff testified that he predominantly experiences pain in his toes. AR 40. Plaintiff testified that sitting in a recliner helped to alleviate the pain in his back. AR 52-53.
When asked about his other impairments, Plaintiff stated he also suffers with irritable bowl syndrome ("IBS") for about three weeks of every month. AR 41. According to Plaintiff, he also suffers with depression. Plaintiff was prescribed Lexapro for his depression but stopped taking it because it aggravated his IBS. AR 42. Plaintiff also recently had surgery on his left elbow, which relieved numbness in his hand. AR 42, 53-54.
When asked about his past relevant work, Plaintiff testified he was a former reserve police officer in San Jose, California. AR 45. As an officer, he spent 70% of his time standing while directing traffic, and 20% to 30% of the time sitting while patrolling in his service vehicle. AR 45. On the job, he experienced some swelling in his knees and hands, but at the time he had not been diagnosed with arthritis or IBS. AR 47. When asked about his ability to return to his work as a police officer, Plaintiff stated that he would no longer be able to defend himself as an officer. AR 46. In Plaintiff's opinion, he would not be able to wrestle or chase a suspect and would be more of a hazard to the force than a help. AR 46.
Plaintiff used a cane at the hearing, but testified that it had not been prescribed by a doctor. AR 70. Plaintiff alleged that he could walk a block without a cane. AR 70. He alleged that he could sit for an hour at a time, and stand for 45 minutes at a time if he had something to lean against. AR 71. He testified that he could comfortably lift about 20 pounds, he however had difficulty grabbing objects because of swelling in his hands. AR 55-56, 71. In addition, Plaintiff testified that he has experienced five fainting episodes, which he alleged was the result of pain. AR 58-61.
With respect to daily activities, Plaintiff indicated that he did not have problems dressing or bathing, other than putting on his shoes. AR 58. Plaintiff testified that he microwaved food, made toast, and was able to vacuum, but was unable to care for his youngest son on his own. AR 56.
Plaintiff's wife, Candice Arthur, also testified at the hearing. AR 65-66. Mrs. Aruthur testified that Plaintiff played with their infant son for short periods of time. AR 66-67. When asked about Plaintiff's depression, Mrs. Arthur testified that Plaintiff's depression had worsened after he stopped taking the antidepressant Lexapro. AR 68-69. According to her testimony, she encouraged Plaintiff to seek counseling. AR 68. She stated it was not until prior to the hearing that Plaintiff took the steps to schedule an appointment with a counselor. AR 69. Plaintiff's first planned appointment was scheduled for Friday after the hearing. AR 68.
The entire medical record was reviewed by the Court. AR 121-439. The medical evidence will be referenced below as necessary to this Court's decision.
Using the Social Security Administration's five-step sequential evaluation process, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not meet the disability standard. AR 23-31.
More particularly, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since December 2, 2006. AR 23. Further, the ALJ identified small internal hemorrhoids; multiple non-bleeding ulcers in the duodenal bulb, hiatal hernia, partial lumabrization of S1, degenerative disc disease changes at L5-S1, moderate facet joint arthritic changes at L5-S1, disc dessication changes at L1-2, mild compression of the left ulnar nerve at the elbow, very mild bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and minimal osteoarthritis of the right wrist, right hand, and bilateral hips as severe impairments. AR 25. Nonetheless, the ALJ determined that the severity of the Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or exceed any of the listed impairments. AR 26.
Based on his review of the entire record, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to complete the full range of light work. AR 28.
Next, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was unable to perform his past relevant work as a police officer. Nevertheless, considering Plaintiff's age, education, work experience and RFC, the ALJ determined there were jobs that existed in significant ...