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De Orozco v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 26, 2019




         Maria Aguilar de Orozco (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner” or “Defendant”) denying her application for disability benefits 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 migraine disorder, lumbar spondylosis, and adjustment disorder with mixed depression and anxiety. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's Social Security appeal shall be denied.


         Plaintiff protectively filed a Title XVI application for supplemental security income on June 13, 2014. (AR 551.) Plaintiff's application was initially denied on November 6, 2014, and denied upon reconsideration on June 12, 2015. (AR 583-586, 592-596.) Plaintiff requested and received a hearing before Administrative Law Judge Judith A. Kopec (“the ALJ”). Plaintiff appeared for a video hearing on January 19, 2017. (AR 513-540.) On May 2, 2017, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. (AR 20-40.) The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on April 18, 2018. (AR 1-4.)

         A. Relevant Hearing Testimony

         Plaintiff appeared for a video hearing on January 19, 2017, and testified with the assistance of an interpreter. (AR 519-533.) At the hearing, Plaintiff amended the alleged onset date to June 13, 2014. (AR 518.) Plaintiff was born on January 3, 1968. (AR 519.) She is 5'6” tall and weighs about 150 pounds. (AR 519-520.) Plaintiff is right-handed. (AR 520.)

         Plaintiff lives with her husband; her three children, ages 19, 17, and 15; and her mother. (AR 520.) Plaintiff no longer drives because she has anxiety attacks and depression and her medication makes her sleepy so it is difficult for her to drive. (AR 520.) Her husband dropped her off for the hearing. (AR 520.)

         Plaintiff completed school through the sixth grade in Mexico. (AR 521.) She understands very little English. (AR 521.)

         Plaintiff worked for In-Home Supportive Services through 2011 taking care of her father. (AR 521.) She was paid for three or four hours and she would not be paid when her father was in the hospital. (AR 521.) Plaintiff worked the full day but was only paid for three to four hours because that was the maximum they would pay since her father lived with her. (AR 522.) Plaintiff would bathe her father, cook for him, feed him, vacuum his room, do his laundry, and take him to get his haircut. (AR 522.) She would lift him out of bed, help him walk and sit in a chair, and that is how she got hurt. (AR 522.) She would lift eight pounds in each hand. (AR 523.)

         Plaintiff is unable to work because of back pain, headaches, anxiety attacks, and depression. (AR 523.) Plaintiff stated that she was in pain during the hearing and her pain level was 6 to 7. (AR 523.) On a good day, Plaintiff's pain level will be 5 and on a bad day it goes beyond 10 and she feels like she is dying. (AR 524.) Almost every day is a bad day. (AR 524.) Plaintiff does not go to the emergency room every day, she only goes about every month or month and a half. (AR 524.)

         Plaintiff has headaches every day. (AR 525.) She will take her medication, lay down, and apply ice or alcohol to her head. (AR 525.) If the pills are working she will lie down for one and a half to two hours. (AR 525.) Plaintiff's pills do not work about every month or month and a half so she will go to the emergency room. (AR 525.) When she has headaches, Plaintiff is sensitive to light and cannot even stand to hear a piece of paper rustling. (AR 526.) Sometimes her headaches last two hours and sometimes they last all day. (AR 526.) Even after the headache goes away, she still feels discomfort. (AR 526.) Two or three days a week, Plaintiff's headaches will last all day. (AR 526.)

         Plaintiff's back pain bothers her when she is walking or standing. (AR 526.) Plaintiff can walk about half a block and can stand for less than five minutes before she starts experiencing increased pain. (AR 526-527.) During an eight-hour work day, Plaintiff would be able to stand about half an hour but with pain. (AR 527.) As for walking, she is only able to walk to the bathroom or kitchen in her small house. (AR 527.) Plaintiff cannot clean or do any activity that lasts longer than that. (AR 527.)

         Plaintiff does not do anything. (AR 527.) She cooks only rarely. (AR 527.) She sometimes goes shopping but will wait in the car while her husband and children do the purchasing. (AR 527.) Lifting aggravates Plaintiff's pain and she can only lift about three pounds. (AR 527.) She cannot lift a gallon of milk because it will cause her back and head to start hurting and her hand will ache up into her neck and along the side of her head on both sides. (AR 527-528.) Sometimes sitting aggravates her back pain, so that is why she took a pill prior to coming to the hearing. (AR 529.) Plaintiff can sit for two hours in an eight-hour workday. (AR 529.) Plaintiff has problems reaching in front of her or over her head because it hurts. (AR 529.) It hurts to grab an object and hold onto it tightly. (AR 529.)

         Plaintiff is depressed every day. (AR 529.) She always feels sadness and feels like crying. (AR 529.) Plaintiff just wants to be by herself. (AR 529.) She never wants to go anywhere. (AR 529.) Plaintiff's depression affects her concentration and she does not even watch television or read. (AR 529-530.) Plaintiff does not socialize with anyone and just stays in her room alone almost all of the time. (AR 530.)

         Plaintiff also has panic attacks. (AR 530.) Whenever she walks a little bit on the street she feels like one of the cars is going to hit her. (AR 530.) The cars are loud and the sound makes her nervous so she cannot be outside very long. (AR 530.) She has to go back inside the house. (AR 531.) Plaintiff goes outside about once or twice a week and this will happen. (AR 531.) She only goes out once a week, and sometimes she will not go out for two weeks at a time. (AR 531.) Plaintiff also gets panic attacks when she is at home. (AR 531.) If she is not having a panic attack then she will have a deep depression. (AR 531.) She feels sad and like all she wants to do is cry. (AR 531.) She does not want to watch television or listen to music. (AR 531.) She just wants to isolate. (AR 531.)

         Plaintiff takes medication that makes her sleepy. (AR 531.) During the day, Plaintiff will sleep for two to three hours. (AR 531.) She also lies down two times during the day. (AR 532.) Plaintiff's medication will sometimes relieve her pain. (AR 532.) She will lay down and wake up in extreme pain so her daughter will give her a massage to relieve the pain or she will give herself a massage. (AR 532.) Plaintiff stopped going for mental health treatment because the doctor told her she needed to stop taking the pain medication but she cannot. (AR 532.) She changed her doctor because she had problems with his receptionist. (AR 532-533.)

         Susan D. Green, a vocational expert (“VE”) also testified at the hearing. (AR 533-539.)

         B. ALJ Findings

         The ALJ made the following findings of fact and conclusions of law.

• Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the application date of June 13, 2014.
• Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: migraine disorder, lumbar spondylosis, and adjustment disorder with mixed depression and anxiety.
• Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments.
• Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b). Plaintiff can lift carry, push, or pull 10 pounds frequently and 20 pounds occasionally. She can sit stand and walk for six hours. She can frequently stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. She can perform simple routine tasks meaning tasks that are SVP 1 or 2, learned by demonstrated or observation and performed by rote. She can have occasional exposure to cold, heat, vibration, fumes, and pulmonary irritants. Her exposure to lights would need to be limited to normal office environments. She would be limited to moderate sound environments.
• Plaintiff is unable to perform any past relevant work.
• Plaintiff was born on January 3, 1968, and was 46 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the date the application was filed.
• Plaintiff is not able to communicate in English and is considered in the same way as an individual who is illiterate in English.
• Transferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability because using the Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding that Plaintiff is not disabled whether or not Plaintiff has transferable job skills.
• Considering Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform.
• Plaintiff has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, since June 13, 2014, the date the application was filed.

(AR 28-40.)

         III. ...

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