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Nunes v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, E.D. California

April 24, 2015

WENDY L. NUNES, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S SOCIAL SECURITY APPEAL

STANLEY A. BOONE, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Wendy L. Nunes ("Plaintiff") filed this action seeking judicial review of the final decision of Defendant Commissioner of Social Security ("Defendant" or "Commissioner") denying Plaintiff's application for benefits under the Social Security Act. (ECF No. 1.) All parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge for all purposes. (ECF Nos. 5, 6.)

Plaintiff applied for Social Security benefits due to impairments arising from fibromyalgia, bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, lumbosacral degenerative disc disease, and obesity. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's appeal from the final decision of the Commissioner is denied.

I.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff applied for Supplemental Security Income benefits on July 21, 2010. (AR 124.) Plaintiff's application was denied on February 22, 2011. (AR 99.) Plaintiff requested a hearing on or around September 16, 2011. (AR 108.)

On August 7, 2012, a hearing took place before administrative law judge Joseph P. Lisiecki III ("the ALJ"). (AR 68-90.) On August 29, 2012, the ALJ issued a written decision finding Plaintiff to be not disabled. (AR 19-30.) Plaintiff requested a review of the ALJ's decision on or around October 25, 2012. (AR 15.) The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on March 15, 2014. (AR 1-3.)

A. Plaintiff's Hearing Testimony

Plaintiff was born on July 30, 1961. (AR 70.) Plaintiff stopped working in August 2008. (AR 77.) Plaintiff got fired at that time because she could not do her job. (AR 77.) Plaintiff's pain prevented her from focusing and the company was going through some restructuring at the time. (AR 77-78.)

Plaintiff has a hard time sleeping at night because of her pain. (AR 79.) Plaintiff is usually still tired and exhausted when she wakes up. (AR 79.) When Plaintiff wakes up, she gets dressed and goes downstairs to watch TV and stays indoors. (AR 80.)

Plaintiff stated that she cannot work because the pain interferes with her ability to stand, sit, and walk. (AR 82.) When asked how far she could walk, Plaintiff stated that she can walk from the couch to the kitchen in her house. (AR 83.) Plaintiff is most comfortable when lying on her stomach. (AR 83.) Plaintiff's heels hurt when she sits normally. (AR 83.) Generally, the majority of Plaintiff's pain is in her heels, hands, and knees.

B. Testimony of Medical Expert

Dr. Samuel Landau testified at the hearing before the ALJ as a medical expert. (AR 72.) Dr. Landau testified that Plaintiff suffers from chronic pain associated with fibromyalgia, bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, obesity, degenerative disc disease, and primary biliary cirrhosis in remission. (AR 73.) Dr. Landau testified that Plaintiff does not meet or equal any Listing. (AR 73.) Dr. Landau opined that Plaintiff's limitations would be standing, walking, or sitting six hours out of eight, lifting and carrying limited to 10 pounds frequently and 20 pounds occasionally, occasional stooping and bending, no climbing ladders, working at heights, or balancing, no forceful gripping, grasping, or twisting with her hands, and frequent fine manipulation and gross manipulation. (AR 74.)

C. VE Testimony

Ronald Hatakeyama testified as a vocational expert at the hearing before the ALJ ("the VE"). (AR 87.) The ALJ provided the VE with the following first set of hypothetical limitations:

• Same education, training, and work experience as Plaintiff;
• Can lift and carry 20 pounds occasionally, 10 pounds frequently;
• Can stand and walk with normal breaks for six hours in an ...

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