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Allee v. Colvin

United States District Court, C.D. California

February 3, 2015

STACY DEANN ALLEE, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

CHARLES F. EICK, Magistrate Judge.

PROCEEDINGS

Plaintiff filed a complaint on April 30, 2014, seeking review of the denial of disability benefits. The parties filed a consent to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge on May 27, 2014. Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment on November 5, 2014. Defendant filed a cross-motion for summary judgment on January 5, 2015. The Court has taken both motions under submission without oral argument. See L.R. 7-15; "Order, " filed May 6, 2014.

BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

Plaintiff applied for Supplemental Security Income on April 28, 2011, asserting disability since April 30, 2001 (Administrative Record ("A.R.") 150-56).[1] Plaintiff worked part time as a janitor from 1998 through 2001, her only period of employment within 15 years of the filing of her application (A.R. 171; see also A.R. 161, 165 (earnings record)). Plaintiff asserts disability based on alleged mental and physical impairments (A.R. 35-47, 170). An Administrative Law Judge examined the medical record and heard testimony from Plaintiff and a vocational expert (A.R. 6-530).

The ALJ found that Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: "degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine, hyperlipidemia, fibromyalgia, migrating polyarthralgias with possible synovitis, coronary artery disease (CAD), status post angioplasty, osteoarthritis, migraines, hypertension, myocardial infarction, carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD), bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety" (A.R. 11). The ALJ also found, however, that Plaintiff retains the residual functional capacity to perform a limited range of light work (A.R. 13). Specifically, the ALJ found that Plaintiff:

can lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; she can stand and/or walk for 6 hours out of an 8-hour workday with regular breaks, but no more than 15 to 20 minutes at a time; she can sit for six hours out of an eight-hour workday with regular breaks, but she must have brief position changes after 30 to 45 minutes; she can occasionally bend, stoop, climb stairs, balance, kneel, crawl, squat, and crouch; she cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; she cannot work at unprotected heights, around moving machinery, or around other hazards; she cannot perform repetitive or constant pushing and/or pulling with her hands; she cannot perform repetitive or constant gross or fine manipulation with both hands; she cannot perform jobs requiring hypervigilance or intense concentration on a particular task; she can adapt to minimal workplace changes; she cannot perform fast paced production work or assembly line type work; she cannot have concentrated exposure to extreme temperatures, pulmonary irritants, and vibrations; and she can have occasional and incidental contact with the public.

(A.R. 13, 18-20 (adopting in part non-examining State agency physician opinions at A.R. 62-90, and a psychiatric consultative examiner's opinion at 463-69)). In so finding, the ALJ: (1) discounted the contrary opinion of Dr. Ann Hamilton, one of Plaintiff's treating physicians; and (2) found Plaintiff's testimony less than fully credible (A.R. 14-20).

The ALJ adopted the testimony of the vocational expert in concluding that a person having the limitations the ALJ found to exist could perform light, unskilled jobs as an "assembler, " an "inspector, " and a "packager" - jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy (A.R. 20-21, 55-56). The Appeals Council denied review (A.R. 1-3).

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. section 405(g), this Court reviews the Administration's decision to determine if: (1) the Administration's findings are supported by substantial evidence; and (2) the Administration used correct legal standards. See Carmickle v. Commissioner, 533 F.3d 1155, 1159 (9th Cir. 2008); Hoopai v. Astrue, 499 F.3d 1071, 1074 (9th Cir. 2007); see also Brewes v. Commissioner, 682 F.3d 1157, 1161 (9th Cir. 2012). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (citation and quotations omitted); see also Widmark v. Barnhart, 454 F.3d 1063, 1066 (9th Cir. 2006).

If the evidence can support either outcome, the court may not substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ. But the Commissioner's decision cannot be affirmed simply by isolating a specific quantum of supporting evidence. Rather, a court must consider the record as a whole, weighing both evidence that supports and evidence that detracts from the [administrative] conclusion.

Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th Cir. 1999) (citations and quotations omitted).

DISCUSSION

After consideration of the record as a whole, Defendant's motion is granted and Plaintiff's motion is denied. The Administration's findings are supported by substantial evidence and are free from material[2] legal error.

I. Summary of the Medical Record.

Plaintiff's primary care physician, Dr. Ann Hamilton, reportedly treated Plaintiff with regular medication visits every three months from July 2008 through at least June 2012 (A.R. 53, 174, 520). The Administration requested Dr. Hamilton's treatment records for the period from May 2010 (one year before the month in which Supplemental Security Income first could have been payable to Plaintiff) through January 2012 (A.R. 438, 482; see also A.R. 16 (ALJ explaining relevant time period for benefits)). Dr. Hamilton's records are summarized below.[3]

On July 22, 2010, Plaintiff reported bilateral knee, foot, and wrist pain for two months (worse in the morning if sitting too long), and an episode of chest pain radiating to the left arm the previous week (A.R. 448). Dr. Hamilton diagnosed possible anterior myocardial infarction (heart attack), and leg, foot, and wrist pain (A.R. 450). Dr. Hamilton referred Plaintiff to the emergency room and prescribed hydrocodone (A.R. 450). The only laboratory results provided by Dr. Hamilton for any of Plaintiff's treatments accompany this visit. An EKG form reflects "possible anterior infarction" and "sent to ER [with] copy" (A.R. 451-52).[4] Blood chemistry results from April 26, 2010, show high triglycerides and LDL cholesterol (A.R. 453-54).

On December 9, 2010, Plaintiff reported that she sprained her right ankle, had mid back pain, and a "social services form" (A.R. 445).[5] Dr. Hamilton observed that Plaintiff "comes up [with] 1 excuse after another - now comes up [with] tender feet" (A.R. 445). On examination, Dr. Hamilton indicated that Plaintiff's feet were "not tender or numb to testing now" (A.R. 447). Dr. Hamilton assessed Plaintiff with ...


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