United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER REGARDING PLAINTIFF'S SOCIAL SECURITY
BARBARA A. McAULIFFE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Alexis Alfredo Ortiz (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial
review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security (“Commissioner”) denying his application
for disability insurance benefits (“DBI”) under
Title II of the Social Security Act and for supplemental
security income (“SSI”) under 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 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, the Court affirms the agency's
determination to deny benefits.
AND PRIOR PROCEEDINGS
March 20, 2014, Plaintiff filed an application for a period
of disability and DBI. AR 196-199. Plaintiff also filed an
application for SSI on March 21, 2014. AR 200-206. In both
applications, Plaintiff alleged disability beginning January
1, 2012. AR 196, 200. Plaintiff's applications were
denied initially and on reconsideration and Plaintiff
subsequently requested a hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”). AR 73-121, 124-153. ALJ Sharon
Madsen held a hearing on July 7, 2016, and issued an order
denying benefits on September 1, 2016. AR 23-72. Plaintiff
sought review of the ALJ's decision, which the Appeals
Council denied, making the ALJ's decision the
Commissioner's final decision. AR 1-3. This appeal
held a hearing on July 7, 2016, in Fresno, California.
Plaintiff was incarcerated at the time of the hearing and
appeared telephonically. Plaintiff was represented by his
attorney, Jonathan Pena. Impartial Vocational Expert Jose
Chaparro also appeared. AR 26, 40, 42, 45.
response to questioning by the ALJ, Plaintiff testified that
his birthdate is January 7, 1990, and he is married but has
no children. Plaintiff testified that prior to his
incarceration he was “kind of homeless” and
“bouncing around a lot.” He had his driver's
license and sometimes drove. Plaintiff has a high school
education and completed some college units but did not obtain
a degree or certificate. AR 45-47.
asked about his typical daily activities, Plaintiff testified
that he did not shower very often because he did not like to
do so. Plaintiff's household chores included feeding his
dog. He did not cook but was able to use the microwave.
Plaintiff did not like to go grocery shopping and typically
did so late at night when there were fewer people present. He
sometimes attended church with his mother but did not like to
go because he would get nervous while around other people. AR
testified that his typical day prior to incarceration
included getting up, feeding his dog, and, if he felt like
eating and food was available, eating whatever his wife was
eating. Plaintiff's wife would brush and style his hair
and Plaintiff would get dressed, drink coffee, and attend
medical or parole appointments. Plaintiff testified that he
did not watch television but enjoyed listening to music and
reading, although he did not read for long periods of time
because he got headaches, needed glasses, and had difficulty
concentrating unless he found the material to be very
interesting. When asked about his prior work history,
Plaintiff testified that he worked for McDonald's for
more than a year on a full-time basis. During that time,
Plaintiff did not cashier and mostly worked in the back. He
did not like helping the customers because he found them to
be rude and mean. AR 50-53.
respect to his mental impairments, Plaintiff testified that
he does not like people and gets overwhelmingly nervous and
paranoid around them. Plaintiff's mind races and he
sometimes feels like he wants to fight and that others are
looking at him strangely, thinking about him, or following
him. He additionally testified that he hears voices,
experiences suicidal thoughts on an ongoing basis, and
sometimes cuts himself. Plaintiff has a history of drug abuse
and previously used methamphetamine. Plaintiff was not
receiving treatment or medication while incarcerated.
Plaintiff was drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana prior to
his incarceration but testified that he does not drink or do
drugs while he is on medication. Additionally, Plaintiff is a
former gang member although he testified that he is no longer
affiliated with any gang. AR 53-59.
response to questioning by his attorney, Plaintiff testified
that he has been receiving treatment since he was a child and
experiences manic and depressive episodes. Plaintiff
described periods of extreme excitement followed by periods
of extreme depression during which he was unable to get out
of bed for days. According to Plaintiff, he will sometimes go
without sleeping for days and then will sleep for weeks. He
further described his depressive periods as lasting for more
than a month at a time. Plaintiff also testified that he
needs reminders to shower and sometimes will go long periods
without brushing his teeth or shaving. He additionally needs
assistance brushing his hair. AR 60-61, 64.
testified that he was attending and doing well in school
prior to his incarceration. Plaintiff's teachers and his
wife, who was taking the same classes as him, would help him
to attend school and feel comfortable around other students.
Plaintiff would sometimes have trouble in school and would
need to sit near the back of the class or close to the door.
He would occasionally experience difficulty getting out of
bed and attending his classes. When Plaintiff was unable to
get up and attend his classes, his wife would alert his
teachers and get his homework so that he could do it at home.
Plaintiff would sometimes be unable to do his work and
reported sitting in bed and crying all day and being unable
to eat. During this time period, Plaintiff was taking his
medications off and on. Plaintiff testified that the dosage
of his medications was constantly changing and while his
medication helped control his symptoms he still experienced
episodes of depression while on medication. Additionally, he
frequently got in fights with others and had trouble sitting
through a full class period unless he had used marijuana.
However, Plaintiff testified that he did not have
disciplinary issues and would leave class as soon as
instruction ended or he began feeling bad. AR 61-65.
Plaintiff's testimony, the ALJ elicited testimony from
the Vocational Expert (“VE”) Jose L. Chaparro.
The VE testified that Plaintiff's work history included
sandwich maker. The ALJ also asked the VE hypothetical
questions. For the first hypothetical, the ALJ asked the VE
to assume a person of the same age, education, and work
background as Plaintiff. This person had no exertional
limitations but was restricted to simple, routine tasks and
occasional public contact. The VE testified that
Plaintiff's past work as performed would be available,
although there are sandwich maker jobs with extensive public
contact. Additionally, there were other ...