United States District Court, C.D. California
BRENDA D. ACKERMANN, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
SUZANNE H. SEGAL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
D. Ackermann (“Plaintiff”) brings this action
seeking to reverse the decision of the Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration (hereinafter the
“Commissioner” or the “Agency”)
denying her application for disability benefits. The parties
consented, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), to the
jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate
Judge. For the reasons stated below, the decision of the
Commissioner is AFFIRMED.
filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) on December 13, 2010. (Administrative
Record (“AR”) 64, 88). Plaintiff’s alleged
disability began on November 29, 2010. (AR 64).
Plaintiff’s application was initially denied on July
27, 2011 and denied on reconsideration on May 18, 2012. (AR
64-75, 77-86). On July 12, 2012, Plaintiff requested a
hearing before an administrative law judge. (AR 105-07). A
hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) Robert A. Evans on October 21, 2013
(“the ALJ Hearing”). (AR 52). Plaintiff appeared
with counsel and testified. (AR 52-63). The ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision on January 7, 2014, finding that
Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social
Security Act. (AR 38-51). Plaintiff requested review of the
ALJ’s decision on January 7, 2014, which the Appeals
Council denied on May 13, 2014. (AR 1-10). Plaintiff filed
this action on July 7, 2015. (Docket Number (“Dkt.
was born on August 31, 1962. (AR 64). Plaintiff is a high
school graduate. (AR 199). Prior to her alleged disability
onset date, Plaintiff worked as an in-home care service
provider from 2004 to 2006. (AR 55, 205). Plaintiff testified
that she suffers from back pain due to scoliosis and the
insertion of a metal rod into her back when she was a child.
(AR 57-58). Plaintiff testified that she previously had
breathing problems due to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary
Disease (“COPD”), but that the disease was not
affecting her breathing anymore. (AR 60).
Dianne L. DeFreece, Psy.D.
February 19, 2007, Dianne L. DeFreece, a licensed clinical
psychologist, examined Plaintiff. (AR 265). Notes from the
examination revealed that Plaintiff had a fifteen-year
history of methamphetamine abuse including an arrest in 2002
for drug possession. (AR 265). Dr. DeFreece recommended
treatment for depression and encouraged Plaintiff to attend
meetings at a substance abuse program. (AR 265).
Homayoun Saeid, M.D.
28, 2008, Dr. Saeid performed a “Complete Internal
Medicine Evaluation” of Plaintiff. (AR 266-70). The
summary report of the evaluation revealed that although
Plaintiff smoked a pack of cigarettes per day, her
“breath sounds are symmetric” with no unusual
findings. (AR 266). Plaintiff informed Dr. Saied that she was
diagnosed with hypertension about 2006 and that she was
abusing methamphetamine at that time. Plaintiff further
informed Dr. Saeid that she quit using methamphetamine in
2007. Dr. Saeid concluded that Plaintiff could
walk six hours and sit six hours in an eight-hour workday.
Shahid Kahn, M.D.
March 31, 2010, Dr. Kahn examined Plaintiff, who complained
of hypertension and depression. (AR 280). Dr. Kahn noted that
Plaintiff had been a smoker for twenty-seven years, but that
her lungs sounded “clear to
auscultation.” (AR 281). Plaintiff noted a pain level of
“zero.” (AR 284). On February 2, 2011, Dr. Kahn
again examined Plaintiff and diagnosed her with COPD. (AR
340-41). On April 3, 2012, Dr. Kahn’s again examined
Plaintiff and noted her lungs as “clear to auscultation
bilaterally” with ongoing COPD. (AR 431-32). On
November 14, 2012, Dr. Kahn’s evaluation of Plaintiff
yielded the same results as to her lung health and continuing
COPD. (AR 489-91). The same results were also noted on
September 11, 2013. (AR 509-10).
Doddanna Krishna, M.D.
November 29, 2010, Plaintiff was admitted to Antelope Valley
Hospital with increasing cough, shortness of breath and
swelling. (AR 294-300). Dr. Krishna noted in her “final
diagnoses” the following conditions: [c]ongestive heart
failure; [c]ardiomyopathy; [d]rug abuse; [p]neumonia;
[b]ilateral small pleural effusions; [c]hronic smoker;
[c]hronic obstructive pulmonary disease with exacerbation;
[h]ypertension; and [t]roponin elevation. (AR 300). Plaintiff
was discharged on December 3, 2010 as “much
improved” with medications. (AR 300). Dr. Krishna then
referred Plaintiff for x-ray diagnostics. (AR 318-24). An
x-ray dated November 29, 2010 of Plaintiff’s chest
revealed “pulmonary vascular congestion,” (AR
319), but x-rays two, three and four days later showed
“[n]ormal pulmonary vascularity.” (AR 321-23).
April 9, 2011, Dr. Chiang gave Plaintiff a comprehensive
internal medical evaluation. (AR 330-33). Plaintiff’s
“chief complaint” was congestive heart failure.
Plaintiff complained of daily shortness of breath, for which
she used an inhaler. (AR 330). Dr. Chiang noted that
Plaintiff’s lungs were, “[s]ymmetric with normal
excursions . . . [c]lear to auscultation throughout.”
(AR 332). Dr. Chiang opined that Plaintiff’s shortness
of breath was likely due to COPD. (AR 333). Dr. Chiang also