United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT AND GRANTING DEFENDANT'S CROSS-MOTION FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT RE: DKT. NOS. 23, 27
NATHANAEL M. COUSINS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
seeks judicial review of the defendant Commissioner of Social
Security Andrew M. Saul's denial of her application for
supplemental security income under Title XVI of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381 et seq.
See Dkt. Nos. 26, 29. Plaintiff argues that the
Administrative Law Judge failed to properly evaluate the
medical record and her subjective complaints. The Court finds
that the Administrative Law Judge articulated sufficient
reasons for his findings and properly evaluated the medical
record. Accordingly, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's motion
for summary judgment and GRANTS the Commissioner's
cross-motion for summary judgment.
applied for Title II disability insurance benefits and
protectively filed a Title XVI application for supplemental
security income on November 16, 2015. See Dkt. No.
18 (“AR”) at 204-19. She indicated on her
application that she had submitted a prior application with
the Social Security Administration. AR at 204. An
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) held a hearing
on Plaintiff's application on September 19, 2017.
Id. at 29- 71. The ALJ found that Plaintiff was not
disabled and denied her application. Id. 12-28. The
Social Security Administration Appeals Council denied review.
Id. at 1-6. Plaintiff seeks judicial review of the
ALJ's now-final decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g) and 1383(c). Both parties consented to
the jurisdiction of a magistrate judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(c). See Dkt. Nos. 10, 13.
is a homeless 53-year-old woman with a high school education
and work experience as a caregiver. Id. at 33, 40,
67. She alleges disability beginning March 20, 2016, based on
neuropathy, memory loss, diabetes, and arthritis.
Id. at 33, 253. Plaintiff has not worked since her
alleged onset date. Id. at 17.
functional report dated January 27, 2016, she noted that
burning and stiffness in her hands and numbness in her legs
limited her ability to work. Id. at 260. She also
listed problems with sleeping and has difficulty with daily
tasks such as dressing, bathing, caring for her hair,
shaving, feeding herself, and using the toilet. Id.
at 261. Plaintiff indicated that she did not prepare her own
meals, but also that she spent one hour daily on preparing
meals. Id. at 262. Plaintiff wrote that she performs
“very light” household chores for two hours
daily. Id. She added that she goes outside
daily and travels by walking and using public
transportation with the help of a cane. Id.
Plaintiff also indicated that she shopped for oral hygiene
products and groceries for two hours twice a month.
Id. at 262, 264. She stated that she spent time with
friends twice a week listening to music, talking, and eating
together. Id. at 264.
friend, A. Wiley, completed a third-party report describing
her perception of Plaintiff's abilities and habits.
Id. at 270-77. Wiley's report is substantially
identical to Plaintiffs' own report. Id.
was diagnosed with right shoulder strain and peripheral
neuropathy in 2014. See AR 389. Although Plaintiff
also complained of leg pain that same year, her doctors found
no abnormalities with her leg. Id. at 409. A year
later, Plaintiff reported improvement in her hand and foot
pain. Id. at 338. By the end of 2015, x-rays showed
swelling consistent with osteomyelitis in her finger.
Id. at 373. Plaintiff was “well known”
to the emergency room department for “similar trivial
symptoms.” Id. at 377.
January 13, 2016, Dr. Sheila Nouchian noted decreased
sensation in Plaintiff's hands and feet, and diminished
reflexes in her knees. Id. at 412. Plaintiff was
discharged from physical therapy shortly after for her
failure to comply with the attendance policy. Id. at
February 11, 2016, state agency physician Dr. A. Khong
assessed the following manipulative limitations based on
Plaintiff's record: “Frequent handling and
fingering using [right] and occasional handling and fingering
using the [left]. May feel frequently bilaterally.”
Id. at 81. Dr. Khong further noted that x-rays of
Plaintiff's left hand did not reveal any arthritis, and
“[d]espite her presumed diagnosis of neuropathy due to
subjective complaints of pain, records do not indicate any
significant functions limitations in the [right] hand.”
Id. at 78. Dr. Khong concluded that Plaintiff could:
lift or carry 10 pounds frequently and 20 pounds
occasionally; stand or walk for more than six hours in an
eight-hour workday; and sit for more than six hours in an
eight-hour workday. Id. at 80.
March 26, 2016, Plaintiff sought treatment at the emergency
room for hip pain. Id. at 479. She also complained
of unsteady gait, and stated that she had “a facial
droop and [affected] speech a few months prior to her visit.
Id. at 480. The physician's assistant processing
Plaintiff noted abnormal gait. Id. at 479. But,
later the same day, Dr. Avinash Patil noted normal, intact
gait, normal range of motion and coordination, and 5/5
strength in all four extremities. Id. at 481.
However, Dr. Patil also noted a positive Romberg sign,
indicating neurological dysfunction. Id. at
481. Doctors drained a fluid collection on
Plaintiff's right thigh. Id. at 491. Her
discharging physician noted that Plaintiff's CT scan
showed evidence of a prior stroke, likely the reason for her
neurological deficit. Id. at 491. He noted that on
discharge Plaintiff “ambulate[d] well and steadily,
” though “wide based.” Id. at 491,
494. Additionally, Plaintiff displayed good strength in all
extremities after having her hip wound incised and drained.
Id. at 494.
Nouchian saw Plaintiff again on April 27, 2016. Id.
at 496. Dr. Nouchian assessed a “[r]ecent silent left
sided lacunar infact[ion].” Id. at 498. She
also diagnosed Plaintiff with “uncontrolled peripheral
neuropathy” with “[w]eakness, unstable gait,
numbness and tingling.” Id. at 496, 498. Dr.
Nouchian referred Plaintiff to neurology for her lacunar
infarction and neuropathy. Id. at 498-99.
22, 2016, Plaintiff saw Dr. Jai-Hyon Rho. Plaintiff
complained of “burning, pins and needles, painful
neuropathy in [her] hands and feet.” Id. at
533. Plaintiff's neurological exam showed intact motor
and sensory function, as well as “intact casual
gait.” Id. at 534. Dr. Rho encouraged
“exercise and weight loss, ” and recommended
Plaintiff be “less sedentary or less vigilant as to her
symptoms.” Id. at 534.
August 8, 2016, Dr. Nouchian wrote that Plaintiff
“reports the condition is getting worse.”
Id. at 538. A few months later, Dr. Nouchian noted
“[n]umbness and tingling of hands and feet, ” but
also opined that Plaintiff's “pain is
manageable.” Id. at 551-52.
September 19, 2017, the ALJ conducted a hearing to review
Plaintiff's disability application. Id. at 29.
Plaintiff was present and represented by counsel.
Id. Plaintiff, Dr. Joseph R. Gaeta, a medical
expert, and Darlene T. ...