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Andrew S. Henckels v. Michael J. Astrue

October 18, 2012


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



Plaintiff Andrew S. Henckels ("Plaintiff") seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying his 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.


Plaintiff filed his application for SSI on January 22, 2009. AR 102-05. He alleged disability since December 1, 2005, due to a defective right knee, osteoprostenis and weak bones. AR 121. After the application was denied initially and on reconsideration, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). AR 64-68, 69-73, 56-57. On July 20, 2010, ALJ Jeffrey Hatfield held a hearing in Long Beach, California. AR 23-48. He issued a decision denying benefits on August 16, 2010. AR 7-19. On August 8, 2011, the Appeals Council denied review. AR 1-3.

Hearing Testimony

ALJ Hatfield held a hearing on July 20, 2010, in Long Beach, California. Plaintiff appeared with his non-attorney representative, Diana Wade. Vocational Expert ("VE") Randi Langford-Hetrick also appeared and testified. AR 25.

At the outset of the hearing, Plaintiff amended his alleged onset date to January 28, 2009. AR 26. Plaintiff testified that he was born in November 1969. He is 5'6", weighs 320 pounds and is right handed. He has a high school diploma and a vocational certification in plastics technology. AR 28-29. He also has a valid driver's license. AR 30.

Plaintiff reported that he last worked in 2005 at Desert Truck Service. He mopped floors and picked up the shop. He quit after a week because he couldn't handle being on his feet for eight hours. AR 30-31. Prior to that, Plaintiff worked as a composite fabricator. In that job, he had to lift 100 pounds or more, stand all day long and move tooling around the shop. He did that job off and on for two to four years. Plaintiff also worked at Norcon in 2000 making parts for aircraft. He had to be on his feet all day, but sometimes could sit for 15 minutes every hour. The heaviest thing he lifted weighed about 250 pounds. He was laid off because of lack of work. AR 32-34.

Plaintiff testified that he can bathe, dress and prepare simple meals without assistance. AR 34. He grocery shops and shops with his mom from time to time. AR 35.

In response to questions from his representative, Plaintiff reported that he did some auto mechanic work in 2008. He worked with his dad at home, doing auto work for friends. They did not work even three or four hours a day. He could not do that job now because he cannot stand and cannot do heavy lifting. AR 35-36.

Plaintiff stated that he can sit for about an hour at a time in a relaxed setting. He has constant pain in his knee. On a scale of one to ten, the pain averages about six. He takes Vicodin and Tylenol 500. After sitting for an hour, his leg goes to sleep. He can sit longer periods in a recliner than in a hard chair. During an eight-hour day, Plaintiff could sit a total of two and a half hours. He cannot sit longer because his knee starts ache and he needs to stand and walk around for 15 or 20 minutes. AR 36-38.

Plaintiff testified that he had two visits with Dr. Boo, who prepared a residual functional capacity when Plaintiff first met him. Dr. Boo is the main doctor at a clinic where Plaintiff has seen Dr. Perry and a nurse practitioner. AR 39-40. Plaintiff also was evaluated by Dr. Robinson at Mammoth Hospital. They want him to do surgery for knee replacement and extension of the bones, but he is concerned because his bones are not normal, his tibia is bowed and he has osteopenia in his lower back. AR 40-42.

The VE testified that most of Plaintiff's past work was as a composite worker in the aircraft industry, which is an SVP 5 from medium to heavy work. AR 43. Plaintiff's job as a tire worker is SVP 3, classified heavy, but performed as medium work. AR 44.

For the first hypothetical, the ALJ asked the VE to assume a worker 40 years of age, who completed the twelfth grade and had vocational training in plastics technology. This worker could lift and carry 20 pounds occasionally, 10 pounds frequently, could stand and walk up to two hours and could sit six hours in an eight-hour period, but would need to reposition himself every 30 minutes to relieve discomfort and could not operate foot pedals. This person could use stairs occasionally, but never ladders, ropes or scaffolds, could balance and stoop occasionally, but could not kneel, crouch or crawl and must avoid concentrated exposure to hazardous machinery and unprotected heights. The VE testified that this hypothetical individual could not do Plaintiff's past work, but would be able to perform the full range of sedentary unskilled work. AR 44-45. Examples of such jobs included assembler, order clerk and telephone quotation clerk. AR 45.

For the second hypothetical, Plaintiff's representative asked the VE to assume that the same person had an inability to sit for more than one hour at a time in an eight-hour workday and had to stand up and walk around for five minutes. The VE testified that this person could not do the assembly work, but could do the other two jobs. AR 46.

For the next hypothetical, Plaintiff's representative asked the VE to assume that the person was not able to sustain concentration for twenty percent of the day. The VE testified that this precluded competitive employment. AR 47.

Medical Record

In 1986, at 16 years of age, Plaintiff complained of persistent left knee pain and leg length discrepancy. X-rays revealed a leg length discrepancy in the left tibia. He had severe bowing with genu varum of the left tibia. Plaintiff underwent a left valgus ...

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