United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER DIRECTING ENTRY OF JUDGMENT IN FAVOR OF
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY AND AGAINST
S. AUSTIN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Diana Christine Ballestero (“Plaintiff”) seeks
judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security (“Commissioner” or
“Defendant”) denying her application for
disability insurance benefits pursuant to Title II of the
Social Security Act. The matter is currently before the Court
on the parties' briefs which were submitted without oral
argument to the Honorable Gary S. Austin, United States
Magistrate Judge. See Docs. 13, 14 and 15. Having
reviewed the record as a whole, the Court finds that the
ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence and
applicable law. Accordingly, Plaintiff's appeal is
August 9, 2012, Plaintiff filed an application for disability
insurance benefits alleging disability beginning January 11,
2012. AR 1409. The Commissioner denied the application
initially on January 28, 2013, and upon reconsideration on
June 5, 2013. AR 1409. On August 2, 2013, Plaintiff filed a
timely request for a hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge. AR 1409.
Law Judge Edward C. Graham presided over an administrative
hearing on July 25, 2014. AR 24-39. Plaintiff appeared and
was represented by an attorney. AR 24. Impartial vocational
expert Jeanine Metildi (the “VE”) also testified.
August 22, 2014, the ALJ denied Plaintiff's application.
AR 1409-14. The Appeals Council denied review on September 9,
2015. AR 6-9.
November 30, 2015, Plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court.
Ballestero v. Comm'r, Doc. 1 (E.D. Cal. Nov. 30,
2015) (No. 1:15-cv-01798-SKO). On February 22, 2017, the
Court reversed the ALJ's denial of benefits and remanded
the case for further proceedings to consider the opinions of
the state agency physicians, Drs. Greene and Wilson.
Id., Doc. 19 at 6; AR 1507-18.
April 27, 2017, the Appeals Council referred the case to an
administrative law judge. AR 1521-22. Administrative Law
Judge Robin Rosenbluth presided over the remand hearing on
January 26, 2018. AR 1436-65. Plaintiff appeared and was
represented by an attorney. AR 1436. Impartial vocational
expert Dr. Heidi Paul (the “VE”) also testified.
April 6, 2018, ALJ Rosenbluth denied Plaintiff's
application for benefits. AR 1418-29. On June 12, 2018,
Plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court. Doc. 1.
Factual Background 
time of the second hearing, Plaintiff (born February 24,
1957) continued to live with her husband. AR 1440. Except for
assisting her daughter with after school childcare in 2015,
she had not worked since the Bank of the Sierra discharged
her for excessive absences in 2012. AR 1441, 1443. Although
Plaintiff needed money, she did not “know if she was
really looking for a job.” AR 1442. In 2015, Plaintiff
‘s daughter paid her approximately $2800.00 to be
present in the daughter's home for approximately two
hours from the time Plaintiff's three grandchildren (aged
7, 9 and 11) returned from school until their parents
returned from work. AR 1443. Plaintiff stopped watching the
children after about six months because the work was too
difficult for her. AR 1446.
testified that when she stands longer than one hour, she is
in great pain and becomes “nauseous and sick to my
stomach.” AR 1446. She feels dizzy and needs to sit
down for 30 to 45 minutes. AR 1446-47. She has severe neck
and back pain which has been worsening since Plaintiff was in
her thirties. AR 1447. Although recent cervical spine surgery
was intended to improve her condition, it caused Plaintiff to
develop trigeminal neuralgia, which causes severe pain in
Plaintiff's head and neck, and disturbs her balance. AR
1448. Plaintiff also suffered from pain in her hands which
caused her to drop things. AR 1452. She needed surgery to
replace her thumb joint. AR 1452
tried a TENS unit,  ultrasound treatments, physical therapy
and acupuncture, but none of those treatments helped her. AR
1449. She took Percocet which “help[ed] somewhat,
” but was not sufficient on her bad days. AR 1449.
Epidural injections were effective but caused a bad reaction
that led to having an auto accident. AR 1450.
stopped using morphine for pain relief because it constipated
her and caused emotional problems. AR 1454. Plaintiff tried
group therapy but did not like to open up in front of other
participants. AR 1454. Plaintiff's insurance did not
cover individual therapy. AR 1456. She was taking Celexa and
Xanax. AR 1454.
typical day Plaintiff watched television, walked around her
house and prepared lunch. AR 1451. She was able to take care
of her personal needs. AR 1451. Plaintiff's daughter did
the housework for Plaintiff. AR 1451.
this appeal raises no issues concerning the medical evidence,
this factual background statement addresses subsequent
medical records only briefly to provide an overview of
Plaintiff's medical treatment following the earlier
decision. Following the prior hearing decision (2015),
Plaintiff continued to experience frequent urinary tract