United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER REGARDING PLAINTIFF'S SOCIAL SECURITY
BARBARA A. McAULIFFE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Steven Lee Findley (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial
review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security (“Commissioner”) denying his application
for disability insurance benefits under 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 Magistrate Judge Barbara A.
considered the briefing and record in this matter, the Court
finds the decision of the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) to be supported by substantial evidence
in the record as a whole and based upon proper legal
standards. Accordingly, this Court affirms the agency's
determination to deny benefits.
AND PRIOR PROCEEDINGS
filed an application for disability insurance benefits on
August 27, 2014. AR 147-53. Plaintiff alleged that he became
disabled on October 4, 2013, due to chronic obstructive
pulmonary disorder (“COPD”), emphysema,
depression, anxiety, learning/memory problems, back pain and
alcoholism. AR 169, 172. Plaintiff's application was
denied initially and on reconsideration. AR 81-85, 87-91.
Subsequently, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an ALJ.
ALJ Vincent A. Misenti held a hearing on September 21, 2016,
and issued an order denying benefits on November 19, 2016. AR
7-26, 27-60. Plaintiff sought review of the ALJ's
decision, which the Appeals Council denied, making the
ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final decision. AR
1-5. This appeal followed.
held a hearing on September 21, 2016, in Stockton,
California. Plaintiff appeared in Fresno by video with his
attorney, Jonathan Pena. Impartial Vocational Expert
(“VE”) Judith Najarian also appeared. AR 27, 29.
response to questioning by the ALJ, Plaintiff testified that
he was 59 years of age with a high school diploma. Plaintiff
confirmed his alleged onset date of October 4, 2013. When
asked why he stopped working, Plaintiff testified that he was
dismissed. He believed it was because his conditions and
issues were affecting his job. When asked about his diagnosed
impairments, Plaintiff reported that he has COPD, emphysema,
arthritis in his lower back, and nervous anxiety. AR 30-32.
asked about COPD symptoms, Plaintiff reported that he has
shortness of breath, if he exerts himself, stands up quickly
or walks too far. He also has severe pain in his chest, with
coughing and wheezing. He takes asthma medication and has a
rescue inhaler, but does not use oxygen or a breathing
machine. He explained that environmental irritants, such as
the Fresno air, triggers his COPD. AR 33-37.
asked about his history of smoking, Plaintiff testified that
he started smoking when he was about 9 or 10 years old. He
has a strong addiction and has yet to quit, but has been
cutting down significantly. He is down to eight or ten
cigarettes per day from about three packs per day. He
confirmed it was probably the major reason for his COPD. AR
asked about his history of alcoholism, Plaintiff testified
that it is very serious. When he drinks, he tends to drink to
the point of hospitalization. He has been through AA,
programs at the VA and the Salvation Army program. He has
knowledge of the disease and maintains his sobriety by going
to AA and a VA support group. As of the date of the hearing,
he had been sober for two years and one month. AR 35-36.
asked about his back pain, Plaintiff testified that it is a
nagging pain in his lower back that he attributes to
arthritis. He has had back problems ever since he could
remember, but it has worsened. At his last job, he had a hard
time sitting in his truck too long. He would have to get out
and walk around. He has no other symptoms with his back, such
as tenderness. He takes a non-narcotic medication for the
pain, which helps. He also attended physical therapy and had
home exercises, but it hurt more than it helped, so he
stopped. He has not had any injections or surgeries for his
back. AR 37-39.
asked about his abilities. Plaintiff reported that he could
sit no more than 45 minutes or an hour and stand no more than
45 minutes or an hour. He can walk about two blocks and can
lift no more than 15 pounds. AR 39. When asked about daily
activities, Plaintiff testified that he does dishes, cooks
simple meals, cleans, and does laundry. He can take care of
everything, but in a slower fashion. When asked about outside
activities, Plaintiff testified that he goes grocery
shopping, pays bills, gets his car serviced and sometimes
drives up into the hills to get away. He tries to keep as
busy and as active as he can. He likes to do car models and
watch TV. AR 40-41.
asked what would prevent him from doing his last job as a
driver, Plaintiff reported that the main reason was his back.
He cannot sit in a truck for too long. He reported that his
COPD did not begin to hamper his job in the last two or three
years. AR41- 43.
asked about his drinking, Plaintiff reported that he began
binge drinking around 1990. He managed to maintain work
because the company changed hands several times. He would
sometimes miss work for a whole month. He does not have a
history of DUIs, receiving only one in 1995. After that, he
would not get in a car if he binged. AR 43-44.
asked about medications, Plaintiff testified that he takes
Tramadol about four times a day if his back is hurting. If it
is not as bad, he will take Naprosyn. Tramadol is a stronger
medication. After taking medications, his back pain would be
about seven out of ten. AR 44-45.
asked about mental disorders or impairments, Plaintiff
reported that he has a comprehension problem and cannot
learn. AR 45. He also has an anxiety problem for which he
takes medication and sees a psychiatrist every four months.
response to questions from his attorney, Plaintiff testified
that he received equipment from the VA, including a TENS
unit, a chamber for his inhaler and a Nebulizer machine that
helps with his COPD. AR 47-48. Plaintiff further testified
that he has been issued a walker with a seat, which would
arrive in a few days, to assist him with walking long
distances or standing. He does not use any other assistive
devices, such as a shower chair. AR 48-49.
asked about his prior job, Plaintiff testified that he could
drive about an hour before he had to stop to take a break. He
would pull over to the side of the road, stand outside the
truck and walk around for about 15-20 minutes. In ...