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Donna J. Biddie v. Michael

October 9, 2012

DONNA J. BIDDIE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
DEFENDANT



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

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS REGARDING PLAINTIFF'S SOCIAL SECURITY COMPLAINT

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Donna J. Biddie ("Plaintiff") seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying her application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") 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 for findings and recommendations to the District Court.

FACTS AND PRIOR PROCEEDINGS*fn1

Plaintiff filed for SSI on April 17, 2008. AR 121-23. She alleged disability since February 4, 1999, due to post traumatic stress disorder, depression and arthritis. AR 121, 133-40. After being denied initially and on reconsideration, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). AR 61-65, 71-75, 76-77. On February 8, 2010, ALJ Sandra K. Rogers held a hearing. AR 25-40. ALJ Rogers denied benefits on April 30, 2010. AR 7-20. On June 1, 2011, the Appeals Council denied review. AR 1-4.

Hearing Testimony

ALJ Rogers held a hearing on February 8, 2010. Plaintiff appeared with her attorney, Ben Kuykendall. Vocational expert ("VE") George Meyers also appeared and testified. AR 27.

Plaintiff's Testimony

Plaintiff has been seeing Dr. Ignacio, a psychiatrist, for about 10 years. Dr. Ignacio said she has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and recurring depression. Her treating physician, Dr. Elizabeth LaBelle, says she has diabetes, hepatitis C and degenerative joint disease in the shoulder, hip and neck. She also had ovarian cancer, a stroke in 1995 and stage four cirrhosis of the liver. AR 28-29.

Plaintiff reported neuropathy in her hands and feet, which causes numbness and burning, and requires her to wear special shoes. She has balance problems and a left-arm tremor from her stroke. She also has osteopenia, a fracture in her lower back and a protruding disc. She takes pain pills for her back. AR 29-30.

Plaintiff testified that she lives with her father. She can sit for 20 or 30 minutes, can stand for 10 or 15 minutes and can walk one block. She can carry milk and sometimes grocery shops with her dad. She never shops by herself. At home, she makes her bed, but her dad does "most of the stuff." AR 31-32. She is clean and sober, but smokes cigarettes. AR 35.

On a regular day, she wakes up depressed. She has coffee in the morning and then lies back down. If her dad fixes breakfast, she eats a little and then lies back down. She sleeps at least eight hours during the day. AR 32-34.

Vocational Expert's Testimony

The VE testified that Plaintiff's past work as a fast food worker, which was performed for one month in 1996 and one month in 1997, is light, unskilled and SVP 2. AR 36.

For the first hypothetical, the ALJ asked the VE to assume a person of the same age, education and work experience as Plaintiff. The ALJ asked the VE to further assume that this person could lift twenty pounds occasionally, 10 pounds frequently, could stand and walk or sit six hours in an eight-hour day, occasionally could climb ramps and stairs, but never ladders ropes and scaffolds, occasionally could reach overhead with the left upper extremity and must avoid concentrated exposure to heights and moving machinery. The VE testified that there would be jobs in the national or regional economy that this person could perform, such as cashier, assembler of small products and storage rental clerk. AR 37.

For the next hypothetical, the ALJ added that this person was moderately limited in the ability to interact appropriately with the general public. The VE testified that the cashier position would be totally eliminated and the mini-storage manager job would be eroded by 80 percent. However, the assembler position would not be affected and there would be other, more appropriate jobs that would work, such as housekeeper and office help. AR 38.

For the next hypothetical, the ALJ asked the VE to assume this person could only do sedentary work, but all the other limitations remained the same, including dealing with the public. The VE testified that there would be other jobs existing in the national or regional economies that this person could perform, such addresser, lens inserter and ticket counter. AR 38-39.

For the next hypothetical, Plaintiff's counsel asked the VE to assume a person with poor ability to relate to co-workers, poor ability to deal with the public, poor ability to interact with supervisors, poor ability to deal with work stress, poor ability to understand, remember and carryout complex job instructions, poor ability to behave in an emotionally stable manner, poor ability to relate predictably in social situations, fair ability to demonstrate reliability, fair ability to maintain personal appearance, fair ability to follow work rules, fair ability to function ...


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