United States District Court, Eastern District of California
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFF’S SOCIAL SECURITY APPEAL AND GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF NOS. 11, 14)
Plaintiff Eraide Talingo Coria ("Plaintiff) seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner" or "Defendant") denying his application for disability benefits pursuant to the Social Security Act. The matter is currently before the Court on the parties' briefs, which were submitted, without oral argument, to Magistrate Judge Stanley A. Boone.
Plaintiff suffers from status post old cerebrovascular accident, right shoulder strain, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and diabetes mellitus with retinopathy. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiffs Social Security appeal shall be granted in part and denied in part and Defendant's motion for summary judgment shall be granted in part and denied in part.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Plaintiff protectively filed an application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits and a Title XVI application for supplemental security income. (AR 179-182, 183-187.) Plaintiffs applications were initially denied on September 15, 2010, and denied upon reconsideration on February 2, 2011. (AR 84-88, 100-104.) Plaintiff requested and received a hearing before Administrative Law Judge Sharon L. Madsen ("the ALJ"). Plaintiff appeared for a hearing on April 10, 2012. (AR 31-49.) On May 24, 2012, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. (AR 12-25.) The Appeals Council denied Plaintiffs request for review on August 13, 2013. (AR1-3.)
A. Relevant Hearing Testimony
Plaintiff testified at the April 10, 2010 hearing with the assistance of a Spanish language interpreter. (AR 33.) Plaintiff was born on December 12, 1956. (AR 35.) Plaintiff completed the fourth grade in Mexico and does not understand any English. (AR 36.)
Plaintiff previously worked in agriculture picking fruit and at Ruiz Foods doing janitorial duties such as sweeping and throwing away boxes. (AR 38-39.) Plaintiff went back to work after he had a stroke, but went on disability due to weakness. (AR 41-42.) Plaintiff has problems lifting his right shoulder up and down. (AR 43.) Plaintiff does have strength in his right arm when it is lower, but no strength above chest level. (AR 43.) Plaintiff is able to handle light items overhead, less than five to ten pounds. (AR43.) It hurts to raise his right hand. (AR 43.)
Plaintiff has diabetes and his blood sugar levels fluctuate. (AR 39.) Plaintiffs blood pressure is still high on medication. (AR 40.) Plaintiffs vision varies and is sometimes blurry. (AR 40.) Plaintiff gets dizzy and feels like he is going to pass out on exertion, such as picking up the trash. (AR 41.) Plaintiff is able to lift 10 to 20 pounds. (AR 41.) Plaintiff has no problems sitting and can stand for about 20 minutes. (AR 41.) Plaintiff is able to walk one block slowly. (AR41.) Plaintiff has weakness on his right side due to a stroke. (AR41.)
A vocational expert ("VE"), Cheryl Chandler, testified at the hearing. (AR 45.) The VE characterized Plaintiffs former work as industrial cleaning, DOT 381.687-018, unskilled medium; farm worker with fruit, DOT 403.687-012 and 403.687-010, unskilled SVP 2, medium; and harvest worker, fruit, DOT 403.687-018, which is essentially the same, unskilled medium. (AR 45-46.)
The ALJ presented a hypothetical of an individual of Plaintiff s age, education, language, and work background. (AR 46.) This individual would be able to lift and carry 50 pounds occasionally, 25 pounds frequently, and sit, stand or walk for 6 hours. (AR 46.) The VE opined that this individual would be able to perform Plaintiffs past work. (AR 46.)
The ALJ presented a second hypothetical with the same individual who needed to avoid heights, climbing ladders, ropes or scaffolds, or working around dangerous machinery, and can occasionally reach overhead with the right upper extremity. (AR 46.) The VE opined that this individual would be unable to perform Plaintiffs past work due to the heights, hazards, and climbing limitations. (AR 46.) However, this individual would be able to work as a dishwasher, Dictionary of Occupational Title ("DOT") 318.687-010,  which involves operating a dishwasher machine. (AR 46-47.) This would be unskilled medium work with 31, 000 jobs in the classification. (AR 47.) The individual would also be able to work as a kitchen helper, DOT 317.687-010, unskilled, medium, with 20, 000 jobs in California or a packing job as a bagger, DOT 920.687-014, unskilled, medium with 22, 300 jobs. (AR 47.)
The VE presented a third hypothetical with the individual able to lift 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, and able to stand, sit, and walk for six hours with the same postural limitations. (AR 47.) The VE opined that this individual would not be able to perform any past work. (AR 47.) The VE testified that her testimony was consistent with the DOT. (AR47.)
B. ALJ Findings
The ALJ found that Plaintiff had met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2014, and had not engaged in any substantial gainful activity since March 10, 2009. (AR 20.) Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: status post old cerebrovascular accident and right shoulder strain. (AR 20.) Plaintiff does not have an impairment or ...