United States District Court, C.D. California, Western Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
DOUGLAS F. MCCORMICK, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Arthur Newbanks (“Plaintiff”) appeals from the
Social Security Commissioner's final decision denying his
application for Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”). For the reasons discussed below, the
Commissioner's decision is affirmed and this matter is
dismissed with prejudice.
applied for SSI on October 15, 2012, alleging disability
beginning August 13, 2012. Administrative Record
(“AR”) 150. Plaintiff's claim was denied
initially, AR 78-82, and on reconsideration, AR 87-91.
Plaintiff requested a hearing, which took place on December
3, 2014; the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
took testimony from Plaintiff, who was represented by
counsel, and a vocational expert (“VE”). AR
written decision issued February 20, 2015, the ALJ denied
Plaintiff's claim. AR 17-25. She found that Plaintiff had
the severe impairments of follicular lymphoma; obstructive
pulmonary disease; right elbow epicondylitis; right wrist
degenerative joint disease; left cubital tunnel syndrome;
degenerative disc disease of the cervical, thoracic, and
lumbar spine; anxiety disorder; borderline intellectual
functioning; and antisocial personality traits. AR 19. She
concluded that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or
equal the severity of a listed impairment. AR 20-21. She
found that Plaintiff retained the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work with
several additional limitations, most notably a limitation to
performing simple, repetitive tasks with limited public
interaction. AR 21. She found that Plaintiff was incapable of
performing any past relevant work because his prior jobs
involved medium work. AR 24. But based on the VE's
testimony, the ALJ found that Plaintiff could work as an
assembler, garment sorter, and router. AR 24-25. Therefore,
she concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled. AR 25.
requested review of the ALJ's decision. AR 12-13. On May
3, 2016, the Appeals Council denied review. AR 1-4. This
parties dispute whether the ALJ (1) fully and fairly
developed the record, (2) properly assessed Plaintiff's
RFC, and (3) posed a complete hypothetical to the VE.
See Joint Stipulation (“JS”) at 2.
medical records included an unsigned treating physician
general medical evaluation completed by “Dr.
Cohn” on December 20, 2012. AR 223-24. The evaluation
indicates that Plaintiff was examined on September 5, 2012.
AR 223. The evaluation reported a “hernia in
belly” and “cancer left breach - colon.” AR
224. Plaintiff's records contained other references to a
hernia. In 2006, Plaintiff had surgery to repair an inguinal
hernia. AR 226, 369. A May 7, 2014 radiology report referred
to a “periumbilical hernia containing fat only.”
AR 259. The ALJ noted that Plaintiff had been diagnosed with
lymphoma but that the record otherwise contained “no
indication of colon cancer.” AR 19. She also observed
that there was no follow-up treatment or further diagnostic
tests performed regarding the periumbilical hernia.
the administrative hearing, Plaintiff's attorney asked
Plaintiff what medical problems prevented him from working.
AR 33. He indicated that he had been diagnosed with cancer in
2014. AR 33-35. Plaintiff's attorney also asked what
conditions prevented him from working at the time he applied
for disability benefits in 2012. AR 38. Plaintiff identified
tendinitis in his right hand and wrist and anxiety. AR 39-40.
psychologist Mark Pierce performed a psychological
examination of Plaintiff on March 7, 2013. AR 233-38. Dr.
Pierce diagnosed anxiety disorder, borderline intellectual
functioning, and antisocial personality traits. AR 237. He
opined that Plaintiff retained the capacity to
“complete simple and repetitive skills and to adapt to
minimal changes in the work environment.” AR 238. Dr.
Pierce found that Plaintiff's “[r]easoning
capacities” were “adequate to this lower level of
vocational functioning, ” noting that Plaintiff had not
indicated any “significant adaptive deficits.”
stated that Plaintiff's mental RFC was “based on
the . . . evaluation performed by [Dr. Pierce] in March
2013.” Id. She noted Dr. Pierce's opinion
that Plaintiff retained the ability to adapt to minimal
changes in the work environment. Id. However, as
noted above, the RFC states that Plaintiff can only
“perform simple repetitive tasks with limited public
interaction.” AR 21.
The ALJ Fully and Fairly ...