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Partman v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

June 30, 2014

CAROLYN COLVIN, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.


PAUL S. GREWAL, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Angeles L. Partman appeals the decision by Carolyn Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, denying her disability insurance benefits.[1] Partman moves for summary judgment. The Commissioner opposes the motion and cross-moves for summary judgment. The matter was submitted without oral argument pursuant to Civ. L.R. 16-5. Having reviewed the papers, the court DENIES Partman's motion for summary judgment and GRANTS the Commissioner's cross-motion for summary judgment.


The following facts are taken from the decision by the ALJ and the accompanying administrative record. Partman was born November 9, 1960.[2] She neither graduated from high school nor obtained a GED, [3] but she did earn an associate's degree.[4] Previously, Partman worked in restaurant service, quality control, administrative support, office assistance, and administrative assistance.[5] She last worked part-time at a McDonald's restaurant in 2008, however, she stopped working there to take care of her parents, who were ill.[6] Thereafter, Partman collected unemployment insurance payments for approximately six months from 2008 to 2009.[7] Partman lives with her husband and mother.[8]

On February 9, 2009, Partman applied for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, alleging that she was disabled beginning October 26, 2008.[9] Partman's claim asserted that her ability to work was limited by back injuries, poor vision, poor circulation in her legs, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and depression.[10] The claim was denied initially on April 22, 2009, and again upon reconsideration on November 5, 2009.[11] On December 17, 2009, Partman filed a written request for a hearing on her claim.[12]

A. The ALJ Held a Hearing on Partman's Claim

The ALJ held a hearing on September 17, 2010.[13] Partman appeared at the hearing with counsel.[14] She testified about the medical conditions that allegedly prevent her from working.[15] Her testimony indicated that her back injury is the main reason for her inability to work and that standing, sitting, or laying down for extended periods aggravates her back pain.[16] Partman testified that she is only able to stand without pain for approximately twenty minutes, sit without pain for ten to twenty minutes, and walk for a distance of approximately less than a city-block without pain.[17] Furthermore, Partman stated that she is unable to lift over five pounds.[18] Although Partman has a driver's license, she can only drive when she feels well enough not to take her medication and is only able to drive without pain for approximately twenty minutes.[19]As to her depression, Partman testified that she is not emotionally stable enough to maintain employment and visits a psychologist approximately once per week.[20]

Although none of her physicians testified at the hearing, Partman testified as to treatment of her conditions. She was referred to aqua therapy for her back injury, but only attended one session, which she did not believe improved her condition.[21] She also received an epidural steroid injection but reacted poorly to this treatment.[22] Partman uses a cane for assistance after falling from a chair approximately one year before the hearing.[23] To manage her pain, Partman regularly takes Flexeril, Dilaudid, and Diazepam, [24] which are of limited efficacy[25] and tend to make her tired.[26]

The ALJ took all of the medical documents prepared for the claim into evidence, including reports from an arthritis and orthopedic medical clinic, a psychiatric report and review, multiple case analyses and medical evaluations, a comprehensive internal medicine evaluation, case development worksheet, disability worksheet, records from Partman's pain management provider, prescription records, records from Partman's psychiatrist, records from treatment following Partman's epidural, and both mental and physical Residual Functional Capacity ("RFC") reports.[27]

The ALJ took the case under submission but left the record open so that Partman would be able to submit medical records that she had requested before the hearing but not yet received.[28]

B. The ALJ Concluded That Partman Had the RFC to Perform Past Relevant Work and Thus Was Not Disabled

On October 21, 2010, the ALJ issued his decision.[29] Pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a), the ALJ conducted the established five-step evaluation process to determine whether Partman is disabled. In the first step of the analysis, the ALJ found that Partman had not engaged in substantial gainful employment since October 26, 2008.[30] At steps two and three, he found that Partman has the severe impairment of chronic low back pain with mild degenerative changes in the lumbar spine, but that this did not meet or medically equal any of the official impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. § 404 app. 1.[31] At step four, he found that Partman had the RFC to perform medium work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(c), except that she should avoid exposure to extreme cold and vibrations.[32] At step five, based on the claimant's testimony, adult function reports, medical records, and RFC reports, the ALJ found that Partman could perform her past relevant work as a restaurant hostess.[33] Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Partman was not disabled and thus did not qualify for disability insurance benefits.[34]

C. The Appeals Council Denied Partman's Request for Review

Partman requested review of the ALJ decision by the Commissioner's Appeals Council.[35] The CAC denied this request thereby ...

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