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Yvonne Bratcher v. Michael J. Astrue

September 17, 2012


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



Plaintiff Yvonne Bratcher ("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 Magistrate Judge.


Plaintiff filed her application on March 14, 2008, alleging disability since February 13, 2008, due to back and right foot problems, hepatitis C and mental problems. AR 172-177, 246-251. After the application was denied initially and on reconsideration, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). AR 63, 71, 111-112. On November 2, 2010, ALJ Stephen Webster held a hearing in Fresno, California. AR 28-62. He issued a decision denying benefits on November 19, 2010. AR 11-23. On April 7, 2011, the Appeals Council denied review. AR 4-6.

Hearing Testimony

ALJ Webster held a hearing on November 2, 2010, in Fresno, California. Plaintiff appeared with her attorney, Melissa Proudian. Vocational expert ("VE") Thomas Dachelet also appeared and testified. AR 28.

Plaintiff testified that she was born in 1956. She is not married and has three adult children. AR 34. Plaintiff never had a driver's license. She is able to take care of her personal grooming needs and is able to cook and do laundry. She can also clean up, but she has to lie down sometimes. AR 35. Plaintiff watches about three hours of television at night and listens to music. She does not read because she has a problem with her eyes. Plaintiff is also able to attend church. AR 36.

Plaintiff graduated high school and took college courses once, but stopped. She also has training as a Certified Nursing Assistant, though her license has expired. AR 36-37.

Plaintiff testified that she has problems with hepatitis S, her right foot, depression and bladder control. AR 38-39. Plaintiff receives treatment for her physical problems about once a month and is supposed to start talking to a doctor soon for her depression. AR 39-40.

Plaintiff thought she could sit for about 15 minutes and then asked if she could stand because she was hurting. She thought that she could stand for about 15 minutes and walk about half a block. Plaintiff estimated that she could lift 14 pounds at most. AR 40.

When questioned by her attorney, Plaintiff explained that she has pain in her right foot about every 30 minutes. To treat the pain, she lies down most of the time. AR 42-43. Plaintiff fractured her foot in 2008 and wears a splint. She had physical therapy, which helped, but she still cannot put all of her weight on her right foot because it's too painful. AR 43-44. Plaintiff is also unable to walk on uneven surfaces, such as grass or gravel, and cannot walk up a flight of stairs well. She has to take her time walking on or off a curb. AR 43-44. Plaintiff takes Vicodin for the pain, which takes away the pain for about 45 minutes. AR 44. Vicodin sometimes makes her nervous or jittery, and the medication she takes for high blood pressure sometimes makes her dizzy or drowsy. AR 45.

Plaintiff also has a throbbing pain in her right knee almost all the time. For relief, she lies down until it stops hurting a little. AR 46. Plaintiff lies down twice a day, for about two hours a time, and this helps with the pain. AR 46.

Plaintiff further testified that she thought she had a slight heart attack two weeks ago. She has chest pain every time she moves around too much and has to lie down to relieve it. AR 48-49. Plaintiff had stents placed in her heart in May 2008 or 2009 and takes Plavix and aspirin daily. AR 49. She also has asthma and gets short of breath sometimes at night. AR 49-50. Too much walking or cleaning up triggers shortness of breath. Plaintiff uses an inhaler twice a day, and it sometimes helps. AR 50-51. She smokes a pack of cigarettes a day. AR 55.

Plaintiff also has post-traumatic stress disorder ("PTSD") and gets nervous almost every day. AR 51. She explained she thinks of her son every day and that when she does, her chest starts hurting. AR 52. Plaintiff also has panic attacks every two weeks, lasting about 30 minutes. AR 52-53. She experiences headaches, chest pain and fatigue during the attack and lies down or sleeps for relief. AR 53. Plaintiff has trouble concentrating and thought she could pay attention for about ten minutes before needing a 30 minute break. AR 53.

Plaintiff testified that she is also depressed every day, and that her depression affects her ability to function. AR 53. She doesn't feel very good when she thinks about her son, and then she gets angry and starts having chest pains. AR 53. Plaintiff was not taking any medication for anxiety or depression. AR 54.

For the first hypothetical, the ALJ asked the VE to assume a person of Plaintiff's age, education and work history who could lift 20 pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently, and sit, stand and/or walk for six out of eight hours. This person could not work on uneven ground or rough terrain. The VE testified that this person could perform the light positions of linen-supply load builder, garment sorter, and ampoule filler. AR 55-57.

For the second hypothetical, the ALJ asked the VE to assume the same person, but with an additional limitation to simple routine and repetitive work. AR 57-58. The VE testified that the same positions would be available. AR 58.

For the third hypothetical, the ALJ asked the VE to assume that this person would have occasional problems maintaining attention, concentration and pace. The VE testified ...

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