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Walker v. Comm'r of Social Security

United States District Court, E.D. California

December 24, 2014

JAMES WALKER, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant

For James Walker, Plaintiff: Vijay Jagdish Patel, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Offices of Lawrence D. Rohlfing, Santa Fe Springs, CA.

For Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant: Jeffrey T. Chen, LEAD ATTORNEY, Social Security Administration, San Francisco, CA; Alyson A. Berg, ss, United States Attorney's Office, Fresno, CA.

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S SOCIAL SECURITY APPEAL (ECF Nos. 12, 16, 17)

Stanley A. Boone, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

I.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff James Walker (" Plaintiff") seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (" Commissioner" or " Defendant") denying his application for supplemental social security income 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.[1]

Plaintiff suffers from diabetes, obesity, and borderline intellectual functioning. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's Social Security appeal shall be denied.

II.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff protectively filed an application for supplemental social security income on November 17, 2010. (AR 49.) Plaintiff's application was initially denied on March 8, 2011, and denied upon reconsideration on August 12, 2011. (AR 89-93, 99-103.) Plaintiff requested and received a hearing before Administrative Law Judge Christopher Larsen (" the ALJ"). Plaintiff appeared for a hearing on June 18, 2012. (AR 32-48.) On June 28, 2012, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. (AR 9-21.) The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on August 20, 2013. (AR 1-3.)

A. Hearing Testimony

When Plaintiff arrived at the June 18, 2012 hearing his attorney was not present. (AR 34.) The ALJ contacted counsel's office and was told that Plaintiff had been informed that counsel had withdrawn from the case. (AR 34.) The ALJ explained Plaintiff's options and inquired whether Plaintiff wished to postpone the hearing to obtain representation. (AR 34-35.) Plaintiff decided to testify at the hearing without the assistance of counsel. (AR 35.)

Plaintiff was born on April 2, 1965, and was 47 years old on the date of the hearing. (AR 37.) Plaintiff started, but did not finish the eleventh grade. (AR 36.) Plaintiff has worked as roofer, laying sod for highway landscaping, and pulling parts and dismantling at a wrecking yard, (AR 37-40). Plaintiff also worked at a radiator repair shop, in chicken packaging, and as a janitor. (AR 46.)

Plaintiff is mainly unable to work due to pain in his feet from his diabetes. (AR 40.) Plaintiff is able to walk for about 45 minutes and then he feels like there is something in the middle of his foot and both his feet go numb. (AR 41.) When Plaintiff tells his doctors about his feet they tell him his feet are alright and will not check it. (AR 41.) Plaintiff had some testing done and was told he has nerve damage. (AR 41.) Plaintiff would be able to work if he did not have the problems with his feet. (AR 42.)

On a typical day, Plaintiff takes a walk or rides his bike. (AR 42.) Plaintiff is living with a friend and tries to wash dishes, vacuum, sweep, and cut the yard. (AR 43.) It takes him a long time, but he is able to get it done. (AR 43.) Plaintiff can lift 30 to 35 pounds. (AR 43.) Plaintiff can be on his feet for an hour and then he will start feeling pain all the way up his thigh. (AR 43-44.) Plaintiff cannot sit for more than 20 to 30 minutes or he will start to stiffen up. (AR 44.)

A vocational expert (" VE"), Carly Coughlin, testified at the hearing. (AR 45-48.) The VE testified that Plaintiff's prior work experience is roofer, Dictionary of Occupational Title (" DOT") 866.381-010, medium, SVP 7; landscaper, DOT 408.687-014, heavy, SVP 2; parts clerk, DOT 222.367-042, heavy, SVP 3; radiator repair DOT 620.381-010, medium, SVP 6; janitor, DOT 382.664-010, medium, SVP 2; and hand packager, DOT 920.587-018, medium, SVP 2. (AR 45.)

The ALJ presented a hypothetical of an individual with Plaintiff's age, education, and work experience who can perform medium physical exertion, but is limited to simple repetitive tasks. (AR 47.) The VE opined that this individual would be able to work as a hand packager, 676, 000 jobs nationally and 93, 000 in California; and a janitor, 2 million jobs nationally, and 200, 000 in California. (AR 47.) This individual would also be able to work as a laundry laborer, DOT 361.687-018, medium, SVP 2, with 395, 000 jobs nationally and 40, 000 in the state; golf range attendant, DOT 341.683-010, SVP 2, 257, 000 jobs nationally and 40, 000 in the state; and kitchen helper, DOT 318.687-010, SVP 2, medium, with 500, 000 jobs nationally, and 66, 000 in the state. (AR 47.)

The ALJ presented a second hypothetical of an individual of Plaintiff's age, education, and work experience, who can lift and carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; can stand and walk 2 to 3 hours in an 8 hour day and can sit only 2 to 3 hours in an 8 hour day. (AR 48.) The VE opined that there would be no work which this individual could perform. (AR 48.)

B. ALJ Findings

Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since November 17, 2010. (AR 14.) Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: diabetes, obesity, and borderline intellectual functioning. (AR 14.) Plaintiff has no impairment or combination of impairments that meet or medical equal the severity of one of the listed impairments. (AR 14.) Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to lift and carry 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently; stand and walk up to 6 hours in an 8 hour day, and sit up to 6 hours in an 8 hour day, but he can only perform simple, repetitive tasks. (AR 16.)

Plaintiff can perform past relevant work as a hand packer and other jobs in the national economy. (AR 19.) Plaintiff has not been under a period of disability as defined in the Social Security Act, since the date he applied for supplemental security income. (AR 21.)

III.

LEGAL STANDARD


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