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Tamayo v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 12, 2015

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


BARBARA A. McAULIFFE, Magistrate Judge.


Plaintiff Lisa Tamayo ("Plaintiff") seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying her application for supplemental security income ("SSI") pursuant to Title XVI of the Social Security Act.[1] The matter is currently before the Court on the parties' briefs, which were submitted, without oral argument, to the Honorable Magistrate Judge Barbara A. McAuliffe. The parties consented to the Magistrate Judge's jurisdiction for all purposes. 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 upon proper legal standards. Accordingly, this Court affirms the agency's determination to deny benefits.


On March 9, 2010, Plaintiff applied for supplemental security income, alleging disability beginning January 1, 1980. AR 15, 147-51. The Commissioner initially denied Plaintiff's claim on October 13, 2010, and upon reconsideration, on January 19, 2011. AR 15, 71-75. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a timely request for a hearing. On October 25, 2011, Plaintiff, represented by Melissa Proudian, testified at the hearing. AR 32. On November 8, 2011, ALJ Timothy Stueve denied Plaintiff's application. AR 15-22. On June 25, 2013, the Appeals Council denied review. AR 1. This appeal followed.

Hearing Testimony

The ALJ presided over a video hearing on October 25, 2011, from Oakland, California. AR 27. Plaintiff appeared and testified in Fresno, California with the help of an attorney. Impartial Vocational Expert ("VE") Lynda Berkley also testified. AR 28.

Plaintiff alleges disability due to a learning disorder. Plaintiff was 34 years old at the time of the hearing and lived with her six children. AR 31-32. Plaintiff is married, but her husband is currently incarcerated. AR 31. Plaintiff testified that she completed the ninth grade and had been in special education classes. AR 32. She could read and write "[a] little but not a lot" and had never worked. AR 33. Plaintiff claimed that she could not work because she "[forgot] real easily." AR 34.

When asked about her physical impairments, Plaintiff testified that she did not have any physical problems except for untreated daily migraines. AR 34. While Plaintiff regularly takes her children to the doctor, Plaintiff explained that she has not found a primary physician for herself. She also testified that she has only seen a personal physician for her pregnancies. AR 35. Plaintiff testified that she took her children to the doctor on the bus, and that her older child helped her navigate the bus system. AR 35. Plaintiff stated she does not take the bus by herself because she fears getting lost. AR 46.

When asked about her daily activities, Plaintiff testifies that on a typical day she wakes her children up and helped them to get ready for school. AR 35-36. Plaintiff walked her children to school and then went back home and "pick[ed] up around the house" until it was time to pick up her children. AR 36. Plaintiff cooked meals for dinner and said that her mother-in-law took her grocery shopping. AR 36. When she went grocery shopping, she did not make a list but just "grab[bed] what I know we need for the house." AR 48. The ALJ asked whether Plaintiff is able to count the money for her grocery items, but Plaintiff testified that she does not do the math because her groceries are debited directly from her food stamp card. AR 41. When at home, Plaintiff watched some television and said she had magazines around the house but did not know how to read them. AR 37-38. Plaintiff said she did not have a driver's license and did not know how to drive. AR 38. She also did laundry and taught her children how to cook. AR 44. Her children also helped her to remember things she needed. AR 48. Plaintiff was able to recall upcoming meetings with her children's teachers and said she would help her children with their homework, although sometimes her older children helped her younger children. AR 44-46.

Thereafter, the ALJ elicited testimony of the vocational expert ("VE") Lynda Berkley. AR 50. After the VE acknowledged that Plaintiff has no past work, the ALJ asked the vocational expert hypothetical questions regarding an individual of Plaintiff's age, education, and work experience who could perform work at all exertional levels; was limited to simple, routine and repetitive tasks involving simple work related decisions, with few, if any workplace changes; and could have occasional interaction with the public. AR 50. The VE testified that such an individual could perform the jobs of janitor, Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) No. 381.687-018 and laundry worker, DOT No. 361.684-014, both of which were unskilled jobs. AR 50.

The ALJ then asked the VE a hypothetical question regarding an individual who could perform one-step tasks with only occasional interaction with the public. AR 50. The VE testified that such an individual is unemployable. AR 51.

Relevant Medical Evidence

The entire medical record was reviewed by the Court and will be referenced below as necessary to this Court's decision. AR 244-324. The Court notes, however, that there is no evidence of medical treatment in the record. At the October administrative hearing, Plaintiff confirmed that she does not have a treating physician or any related medical records. Plaintiff is also not taking any medication for her learning disability. AR 231, 233.


Using the Social Security Administration's five-step sequential evaluation process, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not meet the disability standard. AR 15-22. More particularly, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in any substantial gainful activity since January 1, 1980. AR 15. The ALJ identified cognitive disorder as a severe impairment. AR 17. Nonetheless, the ALJ determined that the severity of the Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or exceed any of the listed impairments. AR 17.

Based on his review of the entire record, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform the full range of work at all exertional levels, with work limited to simple, routine, and repetitive tasks, involving only simple, work-related decisions, with few, if any, work place changes. In addition, the ALJ limited Plaintiff to work involving only occasional interaction with the public. AR 19. Plaintiff has no past relevant work; however, based on Plaintiff's age, education, and RFC, the ALJ determined that significant jobs exist in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform. AR 21. The ALJ therefore found that Plaintiff was not disabled under the Social Security Act. AR 22.


Congress has provided a limited scope of judicial review of the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits under the Act. In reviewing findings of fact with respect to such determinations, this Court must determine whether the decision of the Commissioner is supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. ยง 405 (g). Substantial evidence means "more than a mere scintilla, " Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 402 (1971), but less than a preponderance. Sorenson v. Weinberger, 514 F.2d 1112, 1119, n. 10 (9th Cir. 1975). It 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). The record as a whole must be considered, weighing both the evidence that supports and the evidence that detracts from the Commission's conclusion. Jones v. Heckler, 760 F.2d 993, 995 (9th Cir. 1985). In weighing the evidence and making findings, the Commission must apply the proper legal standards. E.g., Burkhart v. Bowen, 856 F.2d 1335, 1338 (9th Cir. 1988). This Court must uphold the ...

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