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Singh v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 21, 2017




         Plaintiff Rashpal Singh (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner” or “Defendant”) denying his applications for disability benefits and supplemental security income pursuant to the Social Security Act. The matter is currently before the Court on the parties' briefs, which were submitted, without oral argument, to Magistrate Judge Stanley A. Boone.[1]

         Plaintiff suffers from a seizure disorder, affective/anxiety disorders, headaches, hypertension, status post closed head injury, and obesity. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's Social Security appeal is granted in part and Defendant's motion for summary judgment is denied.


         Plaintiff protectively filed an application for disability benefits on August 6, 2012, and an application for supplemental security income on August 17, 2012, in both alleging disability beginning on November 11, 2011. (AR 195-209.) Plaintiff's applications were initially denied on September 14, 2012, and denied upon reconsideration on May 8, 2013. (AR 79-126.) Plaintiff requested and received a hearing before Administrative Law Judge Robert Milton Erickson (“the ALJ”). Plaintiff appeared for a hearing on July 11, 2014. (AR 35-78.) On October 28, 2014, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. (AR 6-21.) The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on February 1, 2016. (AR 1-3.)

         A. Hearing Testimony

         Plaintiff testified at the July 11, 2014 hearing and was represented by counsel.[2] Plaintiff has not worked anywhere for an hourly salary since November 14, 2011. (AR 42.) He has not been making anything and selling it or selling anything that someone else made. (AR 42-43.) He used to own a tractor-trailer combination rig, but he sold it approximately a year after his alleged onset of disability. (AR 42-43.)

         He lives with his wife and two daughters. (AR 44.) His oldest daughter graduated from high school in May 2014 and he attended the commencement ceremony, which lasted for approximately thirty minutes. (AR 44.) He did not go to a party after the graduation. (AR 45.) He did not talk to any of the other parents at the graduation because he does not understand too much English. (AR 45.) His other daughter just finished the seventh grade. (AR 45.) He did not go to any of her plays, presentations, or science fairs at school during the 2013-2014 school year because he cannot stay a long time and he “cannot drive her car.” (AR 45-46.)

         He used to have his commercial driver's license (“CDL”) so that he could drive a truck, but he no longer does because his doctor contacted the DMV. (AR 46.) He cannot drive even a passenger car because of the medication he is on. (AR 46-47.) His wife drives him and their daughter to Visalia so their daughter can attend college. (AR 48-49.) The drive is approximately forty-five minutes and Plaintiff has to stop along the way because he is tired and cannot sit for more than a half hour at a time. (AR 49-50.) After thirty minutes in the car, he gets dizzy and sleeps. (AR 50.)

         He does not know how to use a computer, does not have a smart phone, and at the time of the hearing, did not have a cell phone. (AR 50.) He does not go for any walks, except in his front yard, back yard, and a country park that is a quarter mile from his house. (AR 50-51.) Starting in 2012, he could walk for only fifteen to twenty minutes before he would get dizzy and tired and have to stop and rest. (AR 51.) He does not have any pets. (AR 52.) He does not go to the movies or any community events. (AR 52.) He goes to the temple close to his house on his bike or is driven in a car. (AR 52-53.) He can ride a bike for twenty minutes before he has to stop because he gets dizzy and tired. (AR 53.) He is able to stay for the thirty minute temple service and socialize outside the temple for thirty minutes. (AR 53-54.)

         He has headaches after he takes his seizure and blood pressure medications. (AR 63.) His headaches last all day and even two or three days. (AR 63.) He takes Aspirin or Tylenol, but it “cannot work.” (AR 63.)

         He sees Dr. Radhey Bansal, a family doctor in Delano, every two months. (AR 64-65.) At his last appointment, Dr. Bansal changed his blood pressure medication. (AR 65.) Even when Dr. Bansal changed his seizure medication, there was no difference in his headaches. (AR 66-67.) He takes naps during the day for two or three hours after he takes his medication. (AR 67.)

         Plaintiff has problems with concentration and focusing and he does not watch much TV. (AR 65.) He has problems remembering and is forgetful. (AR 65-66.) He gets dizzy from his lower back and heart and then it looks like he is going to fall down. (AR 63-64.) He has not seen a neuropsychologist. (AR 68.)

         In 1999, Plaintiff worked for GSK Trucking driving a tractor-trailer rig. (AR 70-71.) He would sometimes drive his truck to Redding and Sacramento. (AR 70.) He did not load or unload the truck. (AR 70-71.) He did not prepare any reports; he just kept and turned in the individual slips. (AR 71.) Plaintiff completed high school in India, and has not done any adult education courses in English in the United States. (AR 74.)

         Dr. H. Alexander testified as a medical expert. He had reviewed exhibits 1 through 9F. (AR 54.) He testified that as far as he knew there are clinical studies establishing that Plaintiff has been taking antiseizure medication at therapeutic levels since November 14, 2011. (AR 55.) He noted that there was one Dilantin study that is less than therapeutic on January 24, 2012. (AR 55, 448.) Based on Dr. Alexander's review of exhibits 1 through 9F, the diagnoses for Plaintiff for November 14, 2011, through July 11, 2014, are: subarachnoid hemorrhage sustained on a fall from a truck on November 14, 2011; grand mal seizures, with witnessed seizures on February 11, 2012, and February 15, 2012; high blood pressure, with normal entries and no evidence of stroke, heart failure, a secondary impairment, or end organ impairment; and evaluation for chest pain with no posterior infarct on his study, but no evidence of coronary artery disease and no catheterization, so that is not severe. (AR 56-67.)

         Plaintiff had a closed head injury on November 14, 2011, and then no objective residual except seizures. (AR 58.) Dr. Alexander opined that Plaintiff did not meet Listings 11.02 and 11.03 for seizure disorder. (AR 58.) Plaintiff's last seizure was on February 15, 2012, so his seizure disorder has been controlled or is not in evidence since February 15, 2012. (AR 58.)

         Dr. Alexander testified that there were no records that establish that Plaintiff has a degenerative disc disease. (AR 57.) There were several records where Plaintiff complained of back pain without imaging studies. (AR 57.) While osteoarthritis in multiple joints and moderate degenerative disc disease were listed diagnoses, Dr. Alexander found no objective evidence to support those diagnoses. (AR 57.)

         Plaintiff does not have any limitations in his ability to lift or carry. (AR 58.) Dr. Alexander would assess a residual functional capacity (“RFC”) limiting Plaintiff's exposure to hazards; limiting his exposure to ropes, ladders, or scaffolding; and no unprotected heights, heavy machinery with rapidly-moving parts, open flames, or open water. (AR 58-59.)

         Dr. Alexander opined that Plaintiff did not have any documented seizures since February 15, 2012, and he is in the category of having controlled seizures. (AR 59.) Dr. Alexander indicated that he would mark the form in Virginia that Plaintiff is allowed to drive since his seizures have been controlled for greater than six months. (AR 59.) However, he is not familiar with commercial licenses. (AR 60.) He does not know what the laws are in California. (AR 60.) Plaintiff's usage of Phenytoin EX, 100 milligrams, for seizures would not affect his ability to drive a vehicle if it was in the appropriate dosage. (AR 60-61.)

         Dr. Alexander would need diagnostic information to determine if an individual's dizziness and/or vertigo were related to a closed head injury with moderate to severe hemorrhaging. (AR 61.) It would be reasonable for a person to suffer from headaches after a closed head injury with moderate to severe ...

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