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Curry v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 25, 2016

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




         Plaintiff Gregory Alan Curry (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying his application for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) pursuant to Title II of the Social Security Act. The matter is currently before the Court on the parties’ briefs, which were submitted, without oral argument, to Magistrate Judge Barbara A. McAuliffe.

         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 November 21, 2011, Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits. AR 118-21.[1] Plaintiff alleged that he became disabled on February 17, 2011, due to kidney stones, high blood pressure, a bulging disc in the lower back and migraine headaches. AR 142-56. Plaintiff’s application was denied initially and on reconsideration. AR 61-64, 67-71. Subsequently, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). ALJ G. Ross Wheatley held a hearing on May 1, 2013, and issued an order denying benefits on June 13, 2013. AR 8-17, 22-54. Plaintiff sought review of the ALJ’s decision, which the Appeals Council denied, making the ALJ’s decision the Commissioner’s final decision. AR 1-4. This appeal followed.

         Hearing Testimony

         The ALJ held a hearing on May 1, 2013, in Stockton, California. AR 22-54. Plaintiff appeared and testified. He was represented by counsel, Steve Gimlin. AR 24-25. Impartial Vocational Expert (“VE”) Steven Schmidt also appeared. AR 24.

         In response to questioning by the ALJ, Plaintiff testified that he was 56 years old, 6 feet tall and weighed 310 pounds. AR 27-28. Plaintiff graduated from high school, but did not attend college or receive occupational training. He can read and write, add and subtract and multiply and divide. AR 28-29.

         Plaintiff testified that he stopped working in 2011 because of the frequency of his pain. He started making mistakes, getting very little sleep and taking a lot of pain pills. He is not currently working. AR 29-30. Plaintiff confirmed that he suffers from kidney stones, lower-back pain related to disc, migraines and hypertension or high blood pressure. He also confirmed that he takes medication for his hypertension, and if he is not under any stress or pain, his blood pressure is almost perfect. AR 30-31.

         Plaintiff reported that he only gets one or two migraines a year since he started taking medication called Inderal. He also takes Tylenol and codeine to help with his pain. AR 31.

         With respect to his weight, Plaintiff reported that his doctors have not ever recommended any type of weight-reduction program, but they have recommended exercise. Plaintiff said that he was able to do a little bit of exercise, and will “get out there and play ball with the kids.” AR 31. His doctors did not tell him to adjust his diet “because for the most part” he is “pretty healthy” other than the “kidney stones” and his back. His kidney stones cause his back to flare up. AR 32.

         With respect to his kidney stones, Plaintiff testified that every week he will pass either some kind of pepper flakes or sand, which is constant and very painful. Occasionally, he will pass larger stones. In the past year, he estimated passing 50 to 60 stones. AR 32-34. He takes allopurinol, which his doctor said did not seem to be doing any good. AR 33.

         When asked about the frequency of his medical treatment, Plaintiff testified that he had not seen his doctor as much as he should have because of financial reasons. He has no medical coverage. However, Pfizer is providing him with medications for free, which has helped. AR 35-36. Plaintiff believed that his left kidney was full of stones, but he could not afford an x-ray. AR 38-39.

         Plaintiff reported that Dr. Eagan from Kaiser did not think there was anything else they could do for Plaintiff’s kidney stones. AR 37. However, Plaintiff testified that he has had surgery to get stones unblocked. He has had a torso lobotomy where they cut stones from his back. He also has had stones blasted with ultrasound and a laser. These processes have been successful. AR 37-38.

         When asked about his back, Plaintiff confirmed that when he has problems passing a stone his back gets tight. It causes the bulging disc to flare up. He has had an MRI, which showed that he has a bulging disc between L4 and 5. He went to physical therapy for six weeks, which helped at the time. He also does stretching exercises. Plaintiff explained that the pain is in the middle of the back and travels down the back of his left leg to his knee. He has never had surgery for his back. AR 40-42.

         When questioned about his daily activities, Plaintiff testified that on a good day he walks around inside of his house. On a bad day, he lies in bed, sits on the couch, rolls on the floor, soaks in the hot tub and does whatever he can to get ...

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