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Ramirez v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 6, 2015

VANESSA RAMIREZ, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S SOCIAL SECURITY APPEAL (ECF NOS. 15, 16, 17) I.

STANLEY A. BOONE, Magistrate Judge.

I.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Vanessa Ramirez ("Plaintiff") seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner" or "Defendant") denying her application for supplemental 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 Valley Fever; chest pains; bilateral hearing loss; right arm burns; diabetes mellitus; obesity; a mood disorder; bipolar disorder; depressive disorder; anxiety; and borderline personality disorder. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's Social Security appeal shall be granted in part and denied in part.

II.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff protectively filed a Title XVI application for supplemental security income on January 3, 2011. (AR 75.) Plaintiff's application was initially denied on April 19, 2011, and denied upon reconsideration on August 8, 2011. (AR 87-90, 92-97.) Plaintiff requested and received a hearing before Administrative Law Judge Tamia N. Gordon ("the ALJ"). Plaintiff appeared for a hearing on October 12, 2012. (AR 41-67.) On October 19, 2012, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. (AR 20-36.) The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on July 8, 2013. (AR 13-15.)

A. Relevant Hearing Testimony

Plaintiff appeared at the hearing and waived representation. (AR 43-44.) Plaintiff was born on December 10, 1984, and was twenty-seven years old on the date of the hearing. (AR 48.) Plaintiff attended one year of college and completed nurse assistant training. (AR 50.) Plaintiff was going to go to work in a home for the elderly when she was in a car accident and was unable to due to her limitations with lifting and carrying. (AR 51.) Plaintiff has worked as a tutor, and sorting tomatoes and peppers. (AR 51.) Plaintiff was able to lift 15 pounds when she worked as sorter and 25 pounds when she worked as a tutor. (AR 52.) Plaintiff last worked in 2009 or 2010. (AR 52.)

On August 30, 2010, a doctor told Plaintiff that she was disabled due to her right arm. (AR 48.) Plaintiff's arm was injured in a car accident in February of 2006 and she has had two to three surgeries performed on her arm. (AR 49.) Plaintiff testified that her arm pain and range of motion have gotten worse. (AR 50.) Plaintiff has scar tissue from her burns. (AR 53-54.)

Plaintiff has difficulty opening cans of any kind, changing her son's diaper and carrying him. (AR 54.) Plaintiff's son weighs twenty-seven pounds and she carries him with her left hand. (AR 54.) To lift her son she scoops and grabs him with her left hand and tries to scoop him with her right. (AR 54-55.) Plaintiff is on medication for the pain which is helping, but does not help in extreme hot or cold weather. (AR 55.) Plaintiff takes her medication when she has severe pain so that she cannot move her arm. (AR 55.) Plaintiff has nerve pain from underneath her shoulder down to the waist. (AR 56.) Plaintiff does not receive physical therapy. (AR 55.)

B. ALJ Findings

The ALJ found that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the date of her application. (AR 25.) Plaintiff suffers from the following severe impairments: right arm burns; diabetes mellitus; obesity; a mood disorder; bipolar disorder; depressive disorder; anxiety; and borderline personality disorder. (AR 25.) Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meet or equal the severity of a listed impairment. (AR 26.)

The ALJ found that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to perform medium work except that she can occasionally reach overhead with her dominant right upper extremity. Plaintiff also needs to avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold and extreme heat and is limited to simple routine and repetitive tasks. (AR 27.)

Plaintiff has no past relevant work experience. (AR 35.) She was a younger individual on the date the application was filed. (AR 35.) Plaintiff has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English. (AR 35.) There are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform. (AR 35.) Plaintiff has not been under a disability since the date her application was filed. (AR 36.)

C. Relevant Medical Evidence

Plaintiff had a consultative examination by Dr. Rios on March 23, 2011. (AR 269-272.) Plaintiff complained of diabetes and pain in her right arm. (AR 269.) Plaintiff had a car accident in February 2006 after which she was hospitalized due to an infection that developed to the right axilla to the right arm and she underwent skin grafting. (AR 269.) Plaintiff states there is still some residual pain to the right arm and she is unable to raise the arm above shoulder level due to discomfort at the skin graft site.[2] (AR 269.) As a result she has difficulty carrying with her right arm. (AR 269.)

Examination of the arm revealed extensive scar tissue which was tender to touch and with pain on end range of motion of the shoulder joint. (AR 271.) Dr. Rios found Plaintiff's overall muscle bulk of the bicep to be adequate and strong with no wasting of the supraspinatus muscles observed and grip strength to the right was adequate. (AR 271.) Finger and thumb joints had flexion extension of 70 degrees to the proximal phalanx and 90 degrees to the distal phalanx bilaterally. (AR 271.) Plaintiff's motor strength was preserved at 5/5 throughout with normal muscle tone and bulk. (AR 271.) Light touch and pin prick were intact throughout the upper extremities. (AR 272.) Deep tendon reflexes were 2 in the upper extremities. (AR 272.) Dr. Rios found Plaintiff was able to lift and carry 50 pound occasionally and 25 pounds frequently and could only perform occasional reaching, handling, fingering, or feeling limited on account of the residual pain from the skin graft on her right arm. (AR 272.)

On April 12, 2011, a physical residual functional capacity assessment was completed by Dr. Nasrabadi. (AR 273-277.) Plaintiff was found to be able to occasionally lift and carry 50 pound and frequently 25 pounds, and pushing and pulling was unlimited. (AR 274.) Plaintiff was limited in her ability to reach in all directions, handling, fingering, and feeling in ...


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