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
Mary Annette Denney (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial
review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security (“Commissioner” or
“Defendant”) denying her application for
supplemental security income pursuant to Title XVI 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. 16 and 17. 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
12, 2014, Plaintiff filed an application for disability
insurance benefits alleging disability beginning February 1,
2013. AR 15. The Commissioner denied the application
initially on August 4, 2014, and upon reconsideration on
October 20, 2014. AR 15. On October 23, 2014, Plaintiff filed
a timely request for a hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge. AR 15.
Law Judge Timothy S. Snelling presided over an administrative
hearing on July 15, 2016. AR 27-77. Plaintiff appeared and
was represented by an attorney. AR 27. Impartial vocational
expert Jose Chaparro (the “VE”) also testified.
November 1, 2016, the ALJ denied Plaintiff's application.
AR 15-22. The Appeals Council denied review on March 22,
2018. AR 1-4. On May 20, 2018, Plaintiff filed a complaint in
this Court. Doc. 1.
(born September 9, 1960) completed high school and a year and
a half of business college. AR 32-33. Later, she trained as a
commercial driver and drove a truck crosscountry for one
year. AR 33. Plaintiff had relinquished her class A
driver's license since she was no longer physically able
to drive a truck. AR 33-34.
had multiple orthopedic problems including a congenital spine
defect, arthritis of the cervical spine and shoulders,
degenerative disc disease, scoliosis, degenerative joint
disease of her hips, anxiety and depression. AR 59-60. She
was overweight (5'7” tall, 224 pounds). AR 59.
most recently worked as a shift lead at Love's truck
stop. AR 37-38. Her job was to ensure that the drivers
received all the customer care that they required. AR 38. Job
responsibilities included laundering and providing towels and
washcloths for showers, cleaning showers, maintaining the
coffee bar, staffing the cashier position, stocking the
convenience store, working in the cooler and supervising the
other employees. AR 38-43. Plaintiff loved her job but was
fired after she took ten working days off for dental
treatment. AR 40, 47-48. Although Plaintiff was disappointed
to lose her job she testified that she would not likely have
held the job for more than one additional year because the
work was physically difficult and caused knee, hip and back
pain. AR 52. In particular, her hip and shoulder pain limited
her ability to stand at the cash register. AR 53.
received chiropractic treatment for her back and hips and saw
a medical doctor for treatment of her neck. AR 57. Her knee
problems resolved after she realized that her antidepressants
caused her legs to swell and made her knees painful. AR 57.
could stand about 30 minutes before needing to sit, could
walk about 300 feet before needing a break, and could sit for
about an hour. AR 64-65. Because Plaintiff's cervical
spine was unstable, walking caused severe facial pain. AR 65.
Plaintiff could not look down because she cannot bend her
neck forward. AR 66. She could lift a gallon of milk. AR
65-66. Reaching and bending were also difficult. AR 66-67.
record includes notes of chiropractic treatment on four or
five occasions in a period beginning December 28, 2012 and
ending on June 26, 2013. AR 299-300. The minimal treatment
notes are largely illegible.
February 16, 2014, Plaintiff sought treatment in the
emergency department of Tulare Regional Medical Center for
headache and neck pain that had lasted for three days. AR
522. Medical staff diagnosed a migraine headache and
administered Dilaudid and Phenergan. AR 523.
administrative record includes extensive records of
Plaintiff's physical and mental health treatment at the
Tulare Community Health Clinic (TCHC). AR 303-04, 318-33,
374-427. Ravi Kumar, M.D., first saw Plaintiff as a new
patient on March 12, 2014. AR 308-10. Plaintiff told Dr.
Kumar that she had scoliosis for which she had receiver
chiropractic neck adjustments three times weekly for thirty
years, but was out of work and could no longer pay for
chiropractic treatment. AR 308. Plaintiff was in pain and
using marijuana to fall asleep at night. AR 308. Dr. Kumar
diagnosed pain in Plaintiff's shoulder joint,
cervicalgia, scoliosis and kyphoscoliosis, and referred
Plaintiff for a CT scan of her cervical spine. AR 308. The CT
scan revealed minimal left-sided neural foraminal narrowing
at multiple levels secondary to hypertrophic change,
straightened lordosis and degenerative disk space narrowing
and spurring at ¶ 6-C7. AR 311. On March 21, 2014, Dr.
Kumar reviewed the scan results with Plaintiff and prescribed
cyclobenzaprine and hydrocodone with acetaminophen. AR
29, 2014, Plaintiff began physical therapy at Tulare Regional
Medical Center Rehabilitation Services. AR 507-19. Plaintiff
stopped coming to therapy after June 19, 2014. AR 510.
Kumar first noted chronic joint pain in the pelvic region on
June 30, 2014. AR 325. X-rays of Plaintiff's hips
revealed (1) mild degenerative changes with no acute
fracture, dislocation or unusual effusion and (2)
radiodensities of the pelvis consistent with phleboliths. AR
333. On September 3, 2014, Nkiruka Akabike, M.D., noted
moderate chronic pain in multiple joints relieved by
medication. AR 318.
September 17, 2014, Plaintiff reported depression and
bilateral knee pain and instability. AR 427. X-rays of
Plaintiff's left knee revealed minimal joint fluid and
posterior superior patellar spurring but no fracture,
dislocation or destructive lesion. AR 421. At the follow-up
appointment on October 21, 2014, Dr. Akabike noted that
Plaintiff's intermittent knee pain continued and observed
that the left knee was mildly swollen and tender. AR 416,
418. Plaintiff limped. AR 418. Plaintiff's chronic
problems included continuous amphetamine or psychostimulant
dependence; malaise and fatigue; visual discomfort; cannabis
dependence; shoulder joint and neck pain; and, idiopathic
scoliosis and/or kyphoscoliosis. AR 416.
September 27, 2014, Plaintiff sought treatment for severe
knee pain in the emergency department of Tulare Regional
Medical Center. AR 493-504. Dr. Elton R. Tripp administered a
Toradol injection and prescribed ibuprofen. AR 496, 500.
Plaintiff was discharged with a diagnosis of knee pain of
uncertain origin and directions to see her primary physician
in the next day or two. AR 499. The record includes no
evidence of follow-up treatment.
October 22, 2014, Rosandra Novelo Soleno, L.C.S.W., conducted
an intake interview for substance abuse treatment. AR 413-15.
Plaintiff had been placed on “no narcotics”
status after a urine test. AR 414. Ms. Soleno diagnosed:
Axis I and II 296.33 Major depressive affective disorder,
recurrent episode, severe degree, without mention of
305.20 Nondependent cannabis abuse, unspecified use
305.00 Nondependent alcohol abuse, unspecified drinking
305.70 Nondependent amphetamine or related acting
sympathomimetic abuse, unspecified use
Axis III Scoliosis and kyphoscoliosis, idiopathic, chronic
Axis IV Severe. Problems with primary support group,
occupation and housing
Axis V Current GAF = 50 Highest ...