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Yang v. Saul

United States District Court, E.D. California

September 13, 2019

ROSE YANG, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL,[1] Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER REGARDING PLAINTIFF'S SOCIAL SECURITY COMPLAINT

          BARBARA A. MCAULIFFE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Rose Yang (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying her application for supplemental security income 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. McAuliffe.[2]

         Having 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.

         FACTS AND PRIOR PROCEEDINGS

         Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits on December 26, 2013. AR 166-71.[3] Plaintiff alleged that she became disabled on February 15, 2012, due to a back injury, right shoulder pain, major depression, anxiety, arthritis, high blood pressure, ulcer, insomnia, headache and a mental disorder. AR 186. Plaintiff's application was denied initially and on reconsideration. AR 97-99, 106-11. Subsequently, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an ALJ. ALJ Vincent A. Misenti held a hearing on December 28, 2016, and issued an order denying benefits on March 10, 2017. AR 21-37, 42-69. 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.

         Hearing Testimony

         The ALJ held a hearing on December 28, 2016, in Stockton, California. Plaintiff appeared with her attorney, Robert Ishikawa, and an interpreter. Impartial Vocational Expert (“VE”) Jeff Beeman also appeared. AR 44.

         At the outset of the hearing, the ALJ noted that Plaintiff amended her onset date to December 11, 2013. AR 45. In response to questions from the ALJ, Plaintiff testified that she lives with her daughter, son-in-law and their three children. Plaintiff has a driver's license and drives once a week. She has not attempted to work since December 11, 2013. AR 46-47.

         Plaintiff confirmed that she is alleging disability due to a back disorder. She also has a problem with her right shoulder. Her back condition causes her sharp pain, which has moved to her right leg, making it difficult for her to walk. The pain happens whenever she twists or turns or pushes a chair. For treatment, she takes pain medication and uses a machine for massaging her back. When she takes medication and lies down, her pain will be a four or five out of ten. She has not had surgery and she has not been prescribed any assistive devices. However, she uses her own walking cane when she feels dizzy or wants to walk to the restroom. AR 48-49.

         When asked about her abilities, Plaintiff testified that she can lift about four or five pounds and suffers pain when she carries a bottle of milk. She can sit for 2 hours, stand for 30 minutes and walk about 15 minutes. AR 49-50.

         When asked about her right shoulder, Plaintiff testified that she cannot sleep on her right side because of “pulling.” She feels a hot sensation under her shoulder and the pain goes down her arm to her right hand. She has received shots in her shoulder and is now attending physical therapy. She takes pain medication for her shoulder, which will reduce her pain to a two or three out of ten. AR 50-52.

         When asked about her daily activities, Plaintiff testified that she cannot take care of the children and cannot do household chores. She spends a typical day lying down, but she will get up and walk outside for a while, before returning to lie down. AR 52.

         In response to questions from her attorney, Plaintiff testified that she lies down about seven to eight times per day for one or two hours each time. She will walk for a while and then come back to sleep. When she sits for too long, she will have stabbing pain in her back, it will burn in her lower back and she will have to get up and walk. The pain goes down to her right leg, making it feel weak. She uses the cane once a month, unless the pain is more frequent. She also wears a brace on her hand because it is weak and tingling. Her doctor prescribed it. She uses it at night and sometimes as needed during the day. AR 53- 55.

         Plaintiff testified that she also regularly sees a doctor for her mental health. The medication he prescribes helps her sleep and helps reduce her depression. Plaintiff reported that she cannot concentrate on anything and is very forgetful. AR 55-56.

         When asked about working in the produce department of a store, Plaintiff reported that she had to carry boxes of vegetables and fruit. The vegetables weighed about 40 pounds per box and the fruit weighed about 50 to 60 pounds per box. AR 56.

         When asked about other physical issues, Plaintiff testified that she is incontinent and wears a diaper. If she coughs, she loses control of her bladder. She coughs due to asthma. Plaintiff also testified that she has a stomach ulcer that causes headaches, dizziness and vomiting. AR 56-57.

         Following Plaintiff's testimony, the ALJ elicited testimony from VE Jeff Beeman. The VE classified Plaintiff's past relevant work as seamstress, produce weigher, janitor/cleaner, meat clerk, short-order cook, and farm worker. She also had zero education and no ESL or any language. AR 58-59. The ALJ asked the VE hypothetical questions. For the first hypothetical, the ALJ asked the VE to assume a hypothetical individual with Plaintiff's past jobs and who is not English speaking, can perform a light range of work eroded by frequent right over-the-head reaching. The VE testified that this hypothetical individual should be able to perform Plaintiff's past work as short-order cook, the produce position, sewing/seamstress and janitor as actually and generally performed in the national economy. AR 64-66.

         For the second hypothetical, the ALJ asked the VE to consider an individual that could only stand or walk for four hours total and lift not more than five pounds. The VE testified that such an individual would not be employable. AR 66.

         For the third hypothetical, Plaintiff's counsel asked the VE to add to the first hypothetical that the person could not understand and remember complex instructions. The VE testified that this person would be able to perform Plaintiff's past work as janitor and produce weigher. AR 67.

         Medical Record

         The relevant medical record will be referenced below as necessary to this Court's decision.

         The ...


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