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Guzikauskas v. Saul

United States District Court, S.D. California

August 27, 2019

JESSICA RACHEL GUZIKAUSKAS, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [Dkt. Nos. 12, 14.]

          Hon. Gonzalo P. Curiel United States District Judge.

         On September 7, 2018, Plaintiff Jessica Rachel Guzikauskas (“Plaintiff”) filed this action seeking judicial review of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision partially denying Plaintiff's applications for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and supplemental security income (“SSI”). (Dkt. No. 1.) Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment and Defendant filed a cross-motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. Nos. 12, 14.) On July 30, 2019, Magistrate Judge Mitchell D. Dembin issued a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) that Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment be denied and that Defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment be granted. (Dkt. No. 15.) No Objections have been filed. After careful consideration of the R&R, the pleadings, the supporting documents, and the applicable law, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, and GRANTS Defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment.

         Background

         In November 2012, Plaintiff filed applications for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act and supplemental security income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act alleging a disability date of April 1, 2006. (Dkt. No. 10-5, Administrative Record (“AR”) 228, 234.) Plaintiff alleged disability based on cluster seizures, depression, allergic to most meds, constant diarrhea, staph infection from surgery to lower spin and sleep disturbance. (AR 260.) Plaintiff's claims were initially denied on July 11, 2013, (AR 75; 96), and again upon reconsideration on June 4, 2014. (AR 166, 172.)

         On July 28, 2014, Plaintiff filed a written request for an administrative hearing. (AR 179-80.) On February 8, 2017, Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified before Administrative Law Judge Robin L. Henri. (AR 39-73.) At the time of the hearing before the ALJ, Plaintiff was thirty-eight years old. (AR 42.) Plaintiff had prior work as a massage therapist and instructor. (AR 42.)

         On May 26, 2017, the ALJ issued a partially favorable written decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled as defined under the Act prior to July 8, 2013 but was disabled from July 8, 2013 through the date of the ALJ's decision.[1] (AR 17-31.) On July 6, 2018, the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (AR 1-3.)

         On September 7, 2018, Plaintiff commenced the instant action seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's decision. (Dkt. No. 1.) On November 30, 2018, Defendant answered and lodged the administrative record with the Court. (Dkt. Nos. 9, 10.) On January 4, 2019, Plaintiff moved for summary judgment. (Dkt. No. 12.) On February 4, 2019, the Commissioner cross-moved for summary judgment and responded in opposition to Plaintiff's motion. (Dkt. Nos. 13, 14.) No replies were filed to Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and no opposition was filed to the Commissioner's cross-motion for summary judgment.

         The ALJ Decision

         ALJ Robin L. Henri began the analysis finding Plaintiff met the insured status requirement through June 30, 2010. Next, the ALJ applied the five-step sequential framework to determine that Plaintiff was not disabled prior to July 8, 2013 but became disabled on July 8, 2013 and continues to be disabled through the date of the decision. (AR 19-32.) At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial, gainful activity since April 1, 2006. (AR 19.) At step two, the ALJ found that since that date, Plaintiff has had the following severe impairments: Mollaret's syndrome (benign recurrent meningitis); irritable bowel syndrome or related gastrointestinal disorder; PTSD; and anxiety disorder. (AR 19.) At step three, the ALJ found that since April 1, 2006, Plaintiff has not had an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (AR 20.)

         At step four, the ALJ determined that, prior to July 8, 2013, Plaintiff had the RFC to perform the full range of unskilled sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(a) and § 416.967(a) where such work could not have required:

lifting more than 2 pounds at a time, on more than an occasional basis;
lifting and then carrying articles weighing more than 2 pounds, on more than an occasional basis;
standing or walking more than 2-3 minutes at one time, and no more than 2 total hours in an 8-hour workday;
sitting more than 30 minutes at one time, and no more than 6 total hours in an 8-hour workday;
note: regarding standing/walking and sitting, to be as comfortable as possible, claimant requires the option to make the postural changes noted above, thus there must be an option to perform work duties while standing/walking or sitting, due to the need for these postural changes;
more than occasional stooping, bending, twisting or squatting;
working on the floor (e.g. no kneeling, crawling or crouching);
ascending or descending full flights of stairs (but a few steps up or down not precluded);
overhead lifting or overhead reaching with either extremity;
more than frequent reaching, frequent handling, frequent ...

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