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Low v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. California

September 30, 2014

JOHN WILLIAM LOW, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S APPEAL FROM THE ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

BARBARA A. McAULIFFE, Magistrate Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff John William Low ("Plaintiff") seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying his application for disability insurance benefits under Title II and supplemental security income payments under Title XVI of the Social Security Act.[1] The matter is before the Court on the parties' briefs, which were submitted without oral argument to Magistrate Judge Barbara A. McAuliffe.

Having carefully considered the parties' arguments, the Court finds the decision of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") is supported by substantial evidence in the record and based upon proper legal standards. Accordingly, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's appeal.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Overview of Administrative Proceedings

On July 15, 2010, Plaintiff filed applications for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income alleging disability beginning December 15, 2006. AR 155-164. Plaintiff alleged disability due to mild retardation, high blood pressure, diabetes, and nerve damage in the feet. AR 177. Plaintiff's application was denied initially and on reconsideration. AR 81-88; 92-99. Subsequently, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an ALJ. AR 100-102. In a decision dated June 29, 2012, the ALJ found Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments qualifying Plaintiff for disability at Step Three of the sequential evaluation process. AR 15. The ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. AR 1-6. Plaintiff then commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 405(g) and 1383(c).

B. Medical Record[2]

The medical evidence relevant to this appeal concerns evidence relating to Plaintiff's IQ. On October 21, 2003, examining physician Linda Kane, M.A. administered the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-III examination to Plaintiff. AR 170. Plaintiff obtained the following scores: a verbal IQ score of 71; performance IQ score of 72; and a full scale IQ of 69. Id. On April 26, 2011, Linda Kane administered the WJ-III achievement test. AR 489-491. Test results indicated Plaintiff's oral language skills were low average when compared to the range of scores obtained by others at his age level. AR 491. The results also indicated Plaintiff's academic skills were low average; his fluency with academic skills was low; his reading skills were low average; and his mathematics/math calculation skills were low. Id.

On February 17, 2011, Steven C. Swanson, Ph.D., performed the psychiatric consultative examination in this case. AR 465-471. Dr. Swanson administered various psychological tests, including the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale - 4th edition. AR 466. Plaintiff had a verbal comprehension index of 85; perceptual reasoning index of 81; working memory index of 80; and processing speed index of 84. Plaintiff also obtained a full-scale IQ score of 79, placing him in the eighth percentile. AR 468. Dr. Swanson these scores were "=/- 5" in providing some range for error. Id. Dr. Swanson also noted the corresponding classification for Plaintiff's test scores would place him in the borderline intellectual functioning range. Id. Reviewing physicians R. Paxton, M.D., also concluded the medical record did not support a finding of disability at step three.[3]

C. Plaintiff's Background and Testimony

Plaintiff was born on January 2, 1971, and was forty-one years of age at the time of the hearing. AR 30. Plaintiff is six feet, two inches tall, and weighs approximately 400 pounds. AR 31. Plaintiff completed the twelfth grade; however, Plaintiff was placed in special education classes since the second grade. AR 33. Plaintiff also attended some "city college" in the disabled students program. AR 33.

Plaintiff lives with his brother, who handles financial matters for the both of them. AR 37-38. Plaintiff does not have a driver's license and has never driven. AR 32. Plaintiff takes the bus to get from place to place. Id. Plaintiff goes grocery shopping, and does basic chores such as light cleaning and dish washing. AR 39.

E. The ALJ's Decision

On June 29, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act. AR 20. After considering each step in the sequential evaluation, the ALJ made the following findings:

1. Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since July 15, 2010, the application date (20 CFR 416.971 et seq. );

2. Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and a learning impairment (20 CFR 416.920(c));

3. Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, ...


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