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Gonya v. Colvin

United States District Court, S.D. California

May 23, 2017

DIANA ALITRE GONYA, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER (1) DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND (2) GRANTING DEFENDANT'S CROSS-MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          HON. DANA M. SABRAW United States District Judge

         On October 31, 2012, Plaintiff Diana Alitre Gonya (“Plaintiff”) filed an application for disability income benefits. Plaintiff's claim was denied initially, after which she requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). ALJ Leland H. Spencer held a hearing on November 4, 2014, during which he heard testimony from Plaintiff, medical expert Arthur Lorber, M.D. and vocational expert (“VE”) Connie Guillory. On January 5, 2015, ALJ Spencer issued a written decision finding Plaintiff not disabled. (Administrative Record (“AR”) at 7-16.) Plaintiff filed a request for review of that decision, which the Appeals Council denied on March 18, 2016. Plaintiff filed the present case on May 13, 2016.

         Plaintiff now moves for reversal and remand of Defendant's decision to deny her benefits. Defendant Carolyn W. Colvin, in her capacity as Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, opposes Plaintiff's motion and cross-moves for summary judgment. For the reasons discussed below, the Court denies Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, and grants Defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment.

         I.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is a 42-year old female with past relevant work experience as a security guard and prep cook. (AR at 183.) In June 2011, she injured her right elbow. (Id. at 219.) After a course of conservative treatment, including cortisone injections, Plaintiff underwent surgery on her elbow, specifically a topaz microtenotomy on October 5, 2012. (Id. at 248.) Following surgery, Plaintiff received physical therapy, and on December 20, 2012, she reported being pain free and “independent” in activities of daily living. (Id. at 258.) Plaintiff thereafter began to complain of renewed pain in her right elbow, and received another cortisone injection, among other treatment. (Id. at 294-95.)

         In his decision denying Plaintiff's claim, the ALJ found Plaintiff had:

the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b) except the claimant may lift 20 pounds occasionally, and 10 pounds frequently; may sit for 6 hours out of an 8 hour workday; may stand and/or walk for 6 hours out of an 8 hour workday; and the claimant's right wrist and hand are limited to no more than occasional gross and fine manipulative activities.

(Id. at 10.) The ALJ also found Plaintiff's “statements concerning the intensity, persistence and limiting effects of” her symptoms were not entirely credible for several reasons. (Id. at 11.) He specifically stated Plaintiff's statements were:

inconsistent with her level of activity. She is able to cook; clean her house; tend her garden and remove weeds with a weed whacker; hold her German Shepherd's leash during bi-daily walks. Furthermore, her allegations are inconsistent with the medical record ..., which overall shows that the claimant's use of her right elbow is not severely limited, and that her nerves, bones, muscles, and tendons are generally intact.

(Id.) After reviewing the medical records, the ALJ concluded, consistent with the testimony of the VE, that Plaintiff was capable of performing her past relevant work as a security guard. (Id. at 15.)

         II.

         DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff raises two arguments in her motion for summary judgment. First, she asserts the VE's testimony contradicted the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (“DOT”), which required the ALJ to inquire about that conflict. Plaintiff argues the ALJ's failure to so inquire was error. Second, Plaintiff asserts the ALJ failed to articulate legally sufficient reasons for rejecting Plaintiff's statements about her limitations. Defendant disputes there was anything improper ...


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