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Robles v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. California

December 31, 2014

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


SANDRA M. SNYDER, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Ernesto Jesus Robles, by his attorneys, Law Offices of Lawrence D. Rohlfing, seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying his application for disability insurance benefits pursuant to Title II and for supplemental security income ("SSI") pursuant to Title XVI of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. ยง 301 et seq. ) (the "Act"). The matter is before the Court on the parties' cross-briefs, which were submitted, without oral argument, to the Honorable Sandra M. Snyder, U.S. Magistrate Judge.

The sole issue presented is whether the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") erred in determining Plaintiff's residual functional capacity since Plaintiff's severe impairments preclude his performing the jobs on which the ALJ relied in concluding that work existed that Plaintiff could perform. Following a review of the complete record and applicable law, the Court finds the decision of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") to be supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole and based on proper legal standards.

I. Procedural History

On August 17, 2010, Plaintiff filed separate applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. In both applications, Plaintiff alleged disability beginning January 30, 2009. The Commissioner initially denied the claims on December 9, 2010, and upon reconsideration, on February 2, 2011. On April 15, 2011, Plaintiff filed a timely request for a hearing.

Plaintiff appeared and testified at a hearing on December 6, 2012. Jose Chaparro, an impartial vocational expert, also appeared and testified.

On December 21, 2012, Administrative Law Judge Sharon L. Madsen denied Plaintiff's application. The Appeals Council denied review on January 10, 2014. On February 28, 2014, Plaintiff filed a complaint seeking this Court's review.

II. Factual Background

Plaintiff (born February 14, 1965) worked various jobs requiring heavy labor until he was laid off in July 2008. Despite applying for less physically demanding positions, he had been unable to find work.

Plaintiff's physical complaints included lower back pain and weakness, carpal tunnel syndrome, numbness in his arms, inability to lift heavy objects over his head, hernia, abdominal cramping, and rectal bleeding. Due to financial limitations, however, Plaintiff had not received medical treatment until January 30, 2009, when he was treated at Community Medical Center after experiencing back pain, sweating, and blood in his stool. The clinic physician diagnosed fever, stool incontinence due to an anal fistula, and ventral hernia before sending Plaintiff to the emergency room for an evaluation of his stool incontinence and to rule out infection. Notes on a February 6, 2006 follow-up examination indicated a diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome and that Plaintiff was morbidly obese (69 inches tall; 304 pounds).

Performing a consultative examination, neurologist Michael Froehler, M.D., diagnosed lumbago and possible carpal tunnel syndrome. His examination reported high blood pressure. Dr. Froehler opined that Plaintiff had "no physical impairments or exertional limitations."

On May 26, 2009, consulting physician Sadda V. Reddy, M.D., completed a physical residual functional capacity assessment. Dr. Reddy opined that Plaintiff could lift 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently; could sit, stand, or walk for about six hours each in an eight-hour workday; and had unlimited ability to push and pull. Plaintiff could frequently climb ramps and stairs, balance, kneel, and crawl, and occasionally climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, stoop, and crouch.

Dr. Reddy summarized:

Although [consulting examiner] stated that no functional limitations are needed, considering morbid obesity, history of ventral hernia and poorly controlled hypertension and also history of low back pain, a medium RFC with postural limitations is appropriate. Also needs access to bath room facilities at work place in view of history of anal fistula and irritable bowel syndrome. Mild [carpal tunnel syndrome] with no significant objective findings and no record of treatment does not warrant any functional limitations.

On October 22, 2010, consulting internist Rustom Damania, M.D., evaluated Plaintiff. Plaintiff complaints included obesity, right wrist pain, chronic low back pain, weakness, hypertension, pressure in the suprapubic area, and alcohol dependency. Dr. Damania opined that Plaintiff should be able to lift 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently. He could stand, sit, and walk without limitation, and required ...

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