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Paul Vang v. Michael Astrue

September 25, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barbara A. McAuliffe United States Magistrate Judge



Plaintiff Paul Vang ("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 Barbara A. McAuliffe, United States Magistrate Judge.


Plaintiff filed an application for benefits on July 10, 2007, alleging disability beginning February 1, 2006. AR 11. Plaintiff's application was denied initially and on reconsideration, and he requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). AR 11. ALJ Patricia Leary Flierl held a hearing and subsequently issued an order denying benefits on January 15, 2010, finding Plaintiff was not disabled. AR 11-18. This appeal followed.

Medical Record

The entire medical record was reviewed by the Court. AR 187-279. The medical evidence will be referenced below as necessary to this Court's decision.

Hearing Testimony

ALJ Flierl held a hearing on September 25, 2009. AR 19. Plaintiff appeared and testified; he was assisted by attorney Melissa Proudain and a Hmong interpreter, Kao Vang. AR 21. Vocational Expert ("VE") Thomas Dachelet also testified. AR 20.

At the time of the hearing, Plaintiff was fifty-three-years old living in Madera, California, with his wife and two adolescent children. AR 22. Plaintiff testified that he is originally from Laos but while in the United States he has attended "adult school" for ESL classes. Plaintiff has only a limited ability to speak, read, and write in English. AR 24. Plaintiff also attended vocational school to learn truck driving. AR 25. He has a Class A commercial truck driving license, and worked as a truck driver until he started experiencing back and stomach pain in 2001. AR 25. Before working as a truck driver, Plaintiff worked as a production worker on an assembly line for an electrical business. AR 26. Plaintiff worked at that job until the company shut down. AR 27.

At the hearing, Plaintiff testified he suffers from many ailments including back pain, stomach pain, headaches, dizziness, and depression. AR 27-28. Plaintiff was first asked to explain his low back pain. He stated that he experiences lower back pain twenty-four hours a day. He also experiences a burning sensation in his lower back. To cope with the pain, Plaintiff takes pain medication and asks someone to stand on his back. AR 28-29. This helps to reduce his pain, but does not eliminate it. AR 29. Due to this pain, Plaintiff can only sit for twenty to thirty minutes at a time and stand for about ten to twenty minutes at a time. Plaintiff feels the need to lay down ten times a day for twenty to thirty minutes at a time. AR 30.

When asked about his other impairments, Plaintiff stated he experiences headaches four to five times a week, lasting for approximately three to four hours at a time. AR 31-32. He also has internal and external stomach pain, caused by a protruding lump in his stomach. AR 32. Additionally, Plaintiff suffers from depression due to the change in circumstances caused by his ailments.

With respect to his daily activities, Plaintiff can kneel down, dress and bathe himself daily. He has trouble concentrating and does not do any cooking or cleaning in the home. AR 33.

Thereafter, the ALJ elicited the testimony of vocational expert Thomas Dachelet. AR 37. The VE stated that Plaintiff's past work was classified as production assembly, light unskilled and truck driving, semiskilled. AR 37. In the first hypothetical question, the VE was asked to assume a hypothetical worker of Plaintiff's age, education, and work experience who can perform light work and simple, repetitive, one-to-two step tasks. AR 37. VE Dachelet indicated such an individual could perform Plaintiff's past relevant production work and any other work within the light and sedentary range of unskilled jobs. AR 38. The VE listed examples of jobs ...

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