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Manuel G. v. Saul

United States District Court, C.D. California, Eastern Division

October 25, 2019

MANUEL G., Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          DOUGLAS F. McCORMICK, United States Magistrate Judge.

         Manuel G. (“Plaintiff) appeals from the Social Security Commissioner's final decision denying his application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”).[1] The Commissioner's decision is affirmed and this case is dismissed with prejudice.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed an application for DIB on April 22, 2014, alleging disability beginning August 10, 2012. See Dkt. 16, Administrative Record (“AR”) 263-64, 305. After being denied initially and on reconsideration, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). See AR 133-34. A hearing was held on April 13, 2017, at which Plaintiff, an impartial medical expert (“ME”), and an impartial vocational expert (“VE”) testified. See AR 60-98. A supplemental hearing was held on July 20, 2017, at which Plaintiff and an impartial VE testified. See AR 42-59. On August 10, 2017, the ALJ issued a written decision finding Plaintiff not disabled under the Social Security Act. See AR 20-34.

         The ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his onset date. See AR 25. The ALJ next found that Plaintiff had the severe impairments of “degenerative disc disease/spinal disorder of the lumbar and cervical spine, status post 2015 lumbar fusion; osteoarthritis/degenerative joint disease of the bilateral knees and the bilateral shoulders, status post arthroscopy of both knees; and obesity.” AR 25-26. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform sedentary work except that he:

is limited to lifting and/or carrying and/or pushing/pulling 20 pounds occasionally, 10 pounds frequently; can stand or walk on even surfaces only 2 hours in an 8-hour workday, but for no more than one continuous hour of standing and/or walking at any one stretch, with the use of knee braces; can sit for a combined 6 hours in an 8-hour workday, but for no more than one continuous hour of sitting at any one stretch; following one hour of continuous sitting, would need to reposition from sitting to standing for ten minutes while remaining on task and following one hour of continuous standing and/or walking, would need to reposition from standing to sitting for ten minutes while remaining on task; can never climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds, kneel, and crawl; can rarely (defined as 1 hour of an 8-hour workday) balance and climb ramps and stairs; can occasionally crouch and stoop; can occasionally reach overhead with the bilateral upper extremities; can frequently reach in all directions (other than overhead) with the bilateral upper extremities; and can have no exposure to vibrations, workplace hazards (including moving machinery and unprotected heights), extreme cold or extreme heat.

AR 28-29. The ALJ found that Plaintiff could not perform his past work, but could perform jobs existing in the national economy, including addresser (DOT 209.587-010), bonder (DOT 726.685-066), screener (DOT 726.684-110), election clerk (DOT 205.367-030), document preparer (DOT 249.567-018), and call out operator (DOT 327.367-014). See AR 32-34.

         The Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's decision, which became the final decision of the Commissioner. See AR 1-6. This action followed. See Dkt. 1.

         II. Discussion

         The parties dispute whether the ALJ properly considered the opinion of Plaintiffs treating physician, Dr. Brent Pratley. See Dkt. 20, Joint Submission (“JS”) at 5.

         A. Physician Opinion and ALJ Reasoning

         On March 6, 2014, Plaintiff saw Dr. Pratley for an orthopedic initial consultation in connection with a workers' compensation claim. See AR 547. Plaintiff complained of recurring headaches and sharp pain in the neck, shoulders, lower back, and knees. See AR 549-50. After reviewing Plaintiffs medical history and conducting a physical examination, Dr. Pratley diagnosed Plaintiff with right knee tear, left knee history of surgery with sequel, and stress. See AR 560. Dr. Pratley prescribed medication, referred Plaintiff to physical therapy, and requested an MRI of the bilateral knees. See AR 562-64.

         Plaintiff underwent MRIs on March 21 and 28, 2014. See AR 582 (left knee), 583 (right knee). After reviewing the MRIs, Dr. Pratley again diagnosed Plaintiff with right knee tear, left knee with history of surgery, and stress. See AR 572.[2] Plaintiff underwent several additional MRIs at Dr. Pratley's behest. See AR 591-92 (lumbar spine), 594-95 (cervical spine), 598-99 (right shoulder), 602-03 (left shoulder).

         On October 2, 2014, Dr. Pratley completed a medical source statement form. See AR 611-12. He diagnosed Plaintiff with right knee tear, left knee arthroscopy (x2), bilateral shoulder tear, lumbar spine herniation, and cervical spine sprain/strain, and constant pain. See AR 611. Among other limitations, Dr. Pratley opined that Plaintiff could sit for 0-2 hours and stand/walk for 1 hour in an 8-hour workday, and needed to alternate between sitting and standing every 10-15 minutes. See id He further ...


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