United States District Court, C.D. California
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
SUZANNE H. SEGAL, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Bemisdarfer (“Plaintiff”) brings this action
seeking to overturn the decision of the Acting Commissioner
of Social Security (the “Commissioner” or
“Agency”) denying her application for
Supplemental Security Income. The parties consented, pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), to the jurisdiction of the
undersigned United States Magistrate Judge. (Dkt. Nos. 11,
12, 14). For the reasons stated below, the Court AFFIRMS the
21, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for Supplemental
Security Income (“SSI”), pursuant to Title XVI of
the Social Security Act, alleging a disability onset date of
October 2, 2012. (AR 134, 213-34). The Commissioner denied
Plaintiff's application initially and on reconsideration.
(AR 120-49). Plaintiff requested a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), which took
place on September 4, 2015. (AR 40-91, 165-66). The ALJ
issued an adverse decision on March 11, 2016, finding that
Plaintiff was not disabled because there are jobs that exist
in significant numbers in the national economy that she can
perform. (AR 20-34). On May 9, 2017, the Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff's request for review. (AR 1-6). This
action followed on July 3, 2017.
was born on December 21, 1976. (AR 213). She was thirty-eight
(38) years old when she appeared before the ALJ on September
4, 2015. (AR 40). Plaintiff has a tenth-grade education and a
medical assisting certificate. (AR 48, 125). She is single
and lives by herself. (AR 46). Plaintiff last worked in
October 2012 as a certified nursing assistant (CNA). (AR
260-62). She alleges disability due to hepatitis C, bipolar
disorder, and cirrhosis. (AR 260).
Plaintiff's Statements And Testimony
August 8, 2013, Plaintiff submitted an Adult Function Report.
(AR 282-90). She is able to take care of personal grooming
and prepare simple meals without assistance. (AR 284). She is
unable to perform household chores except laundry twice
weekly. (AR 284). Plaintiff maintained that she cannot leave
the house alone but acknowledged shopping for groceries. (AR
285). She engages in social activities with her boyfriend.
testified that she is unable to work due to chronic joint
pain, hepatitis C, cirrhosis of the liver, and a mood
disorder. (AR 47, 59-62). She acknowledged that her hepatitis
C has been in remission for a year. (AR 60-61). She has pain
in her hips and knees related to her degenerative joint
disease. (AR 59, 66, 73). Plaintiff has abdominal pain from
her cirrhosis. (AR 77-78). She reported being able to stand
and walk for an hour before needing to lie down and rest. (AR
69). She denied using any assistive devices to ambulate. (AR
74). She has difficulty performing daily activities due to
her pain. (AR 66-68). Plaintiff uses oral medications as well
as patches to manage her pain. (AR 75-76). She alleged that
her medications cause drowsiness. (AR 63).
acknowledged a history of drug abuse. (AR 65). She relapsed
with methamphetamine in June 2013. (AR 65). She asserted that
she checked into a rehabilitation center and has been sober
ever since. (AR 65-66).
testified that she has difficulty maintaining focus and
concentration. (AR 47, 50, 68-69). Her last psychiatric
hospitalization was in August 2015. (AR 80).
found Plaintiff “less than fully credible.” (AR
26). The ALJ concluded that the objective medical evidence
does not fully corroborate Plaintiff's allegations of
disabling pain. (AR 26, 27). Further, Plaintiff has not
received the type of treatment one would expect based on her
subjective statements. (AR 26). Finally, the ALJ noted that
Plaintiff has provided conflicting statements regarding her
drug use. (AR 27). While she testified at the September 2015
hearing that she has been sober since June 2013, in July 2015
she admitted drinking on a daily basis and using
methamphetamine. (AR 27; see Id. 1141).
August 2011, Plaintiff complained of bilateral knee pain,
which sometimes radiates to her lower legs. (AR 380). An
orthopedic evaluation found only tenderness to palpitation in
the knees and positive McMurray's testing. (AR 380). There
was no evidence of erythema, edema, clicking with internal
rotation, numbness, or tingling. (AR 380). An x-ray of the
bilateral knees found “no significant joint effusion,
indicating only “minimal arthritic change.” (AR
379). In December 2012, an x-ray of the cervical spine found
minimal disc space narrowing at ¶ 5-6 with minimal
osteophyte formation. (AR 1010). In April 2013, a liver
biopsy confirmed hepatic cirrhosis. (AR 370, 900). In August
2013, Plaintiff presented to the emergency room with symptoms
of upper abdominal pain, fatigue, and weakness. (AR 689). An
abdominal ultrasound revealed enlarged fatty liver, enlarged
spleen, and small ascites. (AR 687-88, 1013). A physical
examination was largely unremarkable, with normal range of
motion. (AR 691-92). Plaintiff was diagnosed with chronic
liver disease, cirrhosis, and hyperbilirubinemia. (AR 696).
She was prescribed several medications to manage her pain,
including Norco. (AR 658).
October 3, 2013, Sohail K. Afra, M.D., performed a complete
internal medicine consultative examination on behalf of the
Agency. (AR 657-62). No medical records were made available
to Dr. Afra, who instead obtained a medical history from
Plaintiff. (AR 657). Plaintiff's chief physical
complaints were hepatitis C and degenerative joint disease.
(AR 658). A physical examination was unremarkable. Plaintiff
ambulated without difficulties and without the need for an
assistive device. (AR 661). Plaintiff had normal range of
motion in the cervical and lumbar spine. (AR 659-60).
pain in her knees with normal range of motion bilaterally.
(AR 660). Plaintiff had full motor strength in her upper and
lower extremities bilaterally. (AR 661). A sensory
examination and Plaintiff's reflexes were within normal
limits. (AR 661). Dr. Afra diagnosed a history of hepatitis
C, mechanical-type back pain, and a history of arthritis. (AR
March 2014, Plaintiff complained of chronic pain in her knees
and hips. (AR 793). A physical examination was unremarkable.
(AR 794). She was diagnosed with generalized osteoarthritis,
low back pain, chronic hepatitis C, cirrhosis of the liver,
anxiety, and depressive disorder. (AR 794). In August 2014,
Plaintiff was treated at the emergency room, complaining of
“severe” low back pain, which radiates to her
abdomen. (AR 1113). An abdominal CT scan revealed dilated
veins of the abdominal wall, findings suggestive of cirrhosis
and portal hypertension. (AR 892-93, 1015-16, 1130). In November
2014, Plaintiff complained of severe pain in her right hip.
(AR 817). A physical examination was unremarkable. (AR 818).
Plaintiff's treating physician assessed generalized
osteoarthritis, low back pain, chronic hepatitis C, cirrhosis
of the liver, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. (AR 818-19). A right
hip x-ray was ordered and pain medications prescribed. (AR
819). In January 2015, a CT of Plaintiff's lumbar spine
indicated mild disc degeneration and right L5 spondylolysis
and right L5-S1 face arthropathy. (AR 896). A CT of her right
hip found mild osteoarthritis. (AR 901).
March 16, 2015, Jeffrey D. Seip, M.D., an orthopedic
specialist, evaluated Plaintiff for complaints of hip pain.
(AR 903-05). Plaintiff reported “sharp pain that
pops” and stated that she has been falling lately. (AR
903). She takes Norco for her pain, which she described as
9-10/10 currently and usually 7-8/10 with activity. (AR 903).
Plaintiff also complained of fatigue, hearing loss, ringing
in the ears, earache, swollen glands, swelling of feet and
ankles, frequent urination, varicose veins, dizziness,
numbness, tremors, excessive thirst, and heat and cold
intolerance. (AR 904). On examination, Plaintiff ambulated
independently without an assistive device. (AR 904). She had
painful palpation over her right hip. (AR 904). While
Plaintiff had painful range of motion with rotation, she had
full range ...