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Branch v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 21, 2017

VICKIE SUE BRANCH, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER

          EDMUND F. BRENNAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying her applications for a period of disability and Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”), disabled widow's benefits, and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. The parties' cross-motions for summary judgment are pending. For the reasons discussed below, plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is denied and the Commissioner's cross-motion is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed applications for a period of disability, DIB, widow's insurance benefits, and SSI, alleging that she had been disabled since January 31, 2007.[1] Administrative Record (“AR”) 234, 319-322. Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration. Id. at 243-252, 254-261. On July 31, 2014, a hearing was held before administrative law judge (“ALJ”) Vincent Misenti. Id. at 43-89. Plaintiff was represented by counsel at the hearing, at which she and a vocational expert (“VE”) testified. Id.

         On September 2, 2014, the ALJ issued an amended decision finding that plaintiff was not disabled under sections 216(i), 223(d), 202(e) and 1614(a)(3)(A) of the Act.[2] Id. at 13-23. The ALJ made the following specific findings:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2016.
2. It was previously found that the claimant is the unmarried widow of the deceased insured worker and has attained the age of 50. The claimant met the non-disability requirements for disabled widow's benefits set forth in section 202(e) of the Social Security Act.
3. The prescribed period ends on August 31, 2016.
4. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 31, 2007, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq.).
5. The claimant has the following severe impairments: carpal tunnel syndrome (hereinafter “CTS”); chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (hereinafter “COPD”); status post left eye aneurysm; and anxiety disorder (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).
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6. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
* * *
7. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to lift and carry 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently, and stand, sit, and walk up to 6 hours in an 8-hour workday. She is able to occasionally engage in overhead reaching with her left upper extremity. All other reaching is limited to frequent. The claimant is capable of frequent handling and fingering with her left hand. She is able to occasionally climb ramps and stairs, but is precluded from climbing ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. The claimant should avoid working around hazards such as machinery and heights. She is able to work around ordinary hazards in the workplace, such as boxes on the floor, doors ajar or approaching people or vehicles. The claimant is able [sic] to read very small print, but is able to read ordinary newsprint or bulk print.[3] She is precluded from engaging in commercial driving. The claimant is able to frequently socially interact with coworkers, and occasionally interact with the public.
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8. The claimant is capable of performing past relevant work as a housekeeper. This work does not require the performance of work-related activities precluded by the claimant's residual ...

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