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Alanis v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, E.D. California

October 1, 2014

GILBERTO DE JESUS ALANIS, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S SOCIAL SECURITY APPEAL

STANLEY A. BOONE, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Gilberto De Jesus Alanis ("Plaintiff") filed this action seeking judicial review of the final decision of Defendant Commissioner of Social Security ("Defendant" or "Commissioner") denying Plaintiff's application for benefits under the Social Security Act. (ECF No. 1.) All parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge for all purposes. (ECF Nos. 6, 8.)

Plaintiff applied for Social Security benefits due to impairments related to obesity, a history of right lower extremity medial tibial plateau fracture, degenerative joint disease of the knees, and asthma. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's appeal from the final decision of the Commissioner is denied.

I.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND[1]

Plaintiff applied for Supplemental Security Income benefits on May 5, 2010. (AR 127-134.) Plaintiff's application was denied on September 1, 2010. (AR 56.) Plaintiff requested reconsideration of the denial on October 20, 2010. (AR 62.) Plaintiff's application was denied after reconsideration on December 29, 2010. (AR 65.) On February 4, 2011, Plaintiff requested a hearing. (AR 71.)

On April 17, 2012, a hearing took place before Administrative Law Judge Timothy G. Stueve ("the ALJ"). (AR 31.) On April 25, 2012, the ALJ issued a written decision and found that Plaintiff was not disabled. (AR 10-21.) The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on April 12, 2013. (AR 5.)

A. Plaintiff's Hearing Testimony

Plaintiff was born on April 10, 1981. (AR 35.) Plaintiff is married and lives in a house with his wife and children, aged eight and nine. (AR 35.) Plaintiff is 5'9" and weighs 345 pounds. (AR 35.) Plaintiff went to school until his sophomore year in high school. (AR 35.) Plaintiff can read and write in English, but reported having dyslexia and a reading disorder. (AR 35.)

Plaintiff worked as a tow truck driver for about a year in 1999-2000. (AR 36.) Plaintiff worked four to five hours a day, but not every day. (AR 36.) In 1999, Plaintiff worked as a fruit packer. (AR 36.)

In May 2011, Plaintiff was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. (AR 37.) Plaintiff takes two pills in the morning and one pill at night. (AR 37.) Plaintiff reported side effects including sleepless nights and problems with his weight. (AR 38.)

Plaintiff has constant pain in both knees. (AR 38.) On good days, the pain level is four out of ten, and on bad days it is ten out of ten and Plaintiff cannot get out of bed and Plaintiff uses a wheelchair to go to the bathroom. (AR 38.) Plaintiff's pain gets worse in cold weather. (AR 48.)

Plaintiff takes Vicodin two times a day for pain relief and Ibuprofen to reduce swelling. (AR 39.) Plaintiff reported that the pain gets worse if he has to walk or use stairs. (AR 39.) Sitting also causes his knees to swell up. (AR 39.) Plaintiff has difficulty losing weight because he cannot do cardio exercises. (AR 39.) Plaintiff was going to receive surgery for his knees but the anesthesiologist told Plaintiff there was an issue with his lungs that made surgery too dangerous. (AR 40.)

Plaintiff uses a cane, a walker, a wheelchair and a shower chair. (AR 40.) Plaintiff switches between the cane, walker, and wheelchair depending on the pain level. (AR 40-41.) Plaintiff takes Advair for asthma. (AR 41.) Plaintiff also has a nebulizer at home, which he uses more often in the winter but not on a daily basis. (AR 41.)

In July 2010, a doctor indicated that Plaintiff did not need to use a cane. (AR 42.) Plaintiff explained that he does not see that doctor in person very often, so he would not know about Plaintiff's problems. (AR 42.)

On a normal day, Plaintiff lies in bed, tries to pick up his kids from school, and get groceries as needed. (AR 42.) Plaintiff's wife does the chores at home. (AR 42.) Plaintiff watches TV and reads, but forgets what he reads after he is done reading. (AR 43.)

Plaintiff sleeps around 10:00 p.m. and gets out of bed around 1:30 p.m. (AR 43.) However, after doing errands, Plaintiff generally goes back to lie down in bed by 5:00 p.m. (AR 43-44.) Plaintiff elevates his legs while in bed for about seven hours a day. (AR 44.)

Plaintiff reported that he can sit for 15-20 minutes at a time, stand for 10-15 minutes, and walk the length of two football fields. (AR 45.) Plaintiff can lift 15-20 pounds while sitting, and is not supposed to lift anything while standing. (AR 45.) Plaintiff has trouble walking on uneven surfaces. (AR 45.) Plaintiff can go up a flight of stairs, but very slowly. (AR 45.)

Plaintiff reported difficulty concentrating. (AR 46.) Plaintiff can read for about 20 minutes at a time. (AR 46.) Plaintiff must be dressed by his wife because he has problems bending his knees. (AR 47.) Plaintiff's wife also helps clean the lower portions of his body. (AR 47.)

Dr. Gill told Plaintiff in 2002 or 2003 that Plaintiff could walk for 10-20 years before he would be committed to a wheelchair because of his joints. (AR 47.)

B. VE Testimony

Thomas Dachelet testified as a vocational expert (hereinafter referred to as "the VE") at the April 17, 2012 hearing before the ALJ. (AR 48.) The ALJ provided the VE with the following first set of hypothetical limitations:

• Can lift 20 pounds occasionally, 10 pounds frequently;
• Can stand or walk for up to six hours;
• Can sit for up to six hours;
• Can occasionally climb ramps or stairs;
• Can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds;
• Can frequently balance; and
• Can occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl.

(AR 49.) The VE testified that a person with such hypothetical limitations could perform work as a packing line worker, a garment sorter, or an ampoule filler. (AR 49.)

The ALJ provided the VE with the following second set of ...


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