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Tenorio v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Arizona

April 9, 2015

MAE A. TENORIO, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

ORDER

H. RUSSEL HOLLAND, District Judge.

This is an action for judicial review of the denial of disability benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. ยงยง 1381-1383f. Plaintiff has timely filed her opening brief, [1] to which defendant has responded.[2] Oral argument was not requested and is not deemed necessary.

Procedural History

Plaintiff is Mae A. Tenorio. Defendant is Carolyn W. Colvin, acting Commissioner of Social Security.

On June 15, 2010, plaintiff filed an application for disability benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act.[3] Plaintiff alleged that she became disabled on June 1, 2010. Plaintiff alleged that she is disabled due to back surgery. Plaintiff's application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. After a hearing on March 29, 2012, an administrative law judge (ALJ) denied plaintiff's claim. On June 10, 2013, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review, thereby making the ALJ's April 9, 2012 decision the final decision of the Commissioner. On February 13, 2014, plaintiff commenced this action in which she asks the court to find that she is entitled to disability benefits.

General Background

Plaintiff was born on March 26, 1959. She was 53 years old at the time of the hearing. Plaintiff has a high school education and was enrolled in college at the time of the hearing. Plaintiff lives in a house with friends. Plaintiff's past relevant work includes work as a case manager in a family shelter and a cashier/hostess.

The ALJ's Decision

The ALJ applied the five-step sequential analysis used to determine whether an individual is disabled.[4]

At step one, the ALJ found that plaintiff had "not engaged in substantial gainful activity since June 15, 2010, the application date...."[5]

At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff had "the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease and hepatitis C...."[6] The ALJ found that plaintiff's substance abuse was not a severe impairment because she has been "clean and sober" since 2008 and because "the record contains no objective findings that [plaintiff's] substance abuse more than minimally affected her ability to perform basic work activities."[7] The ALJ also found that plaintiff's gall bladder condition was not severe because "the record contains no objective findings or medical evidence that [this] condition imposed more than a minimal limitation on her ability to perform basic work activities for any continuous 12 month period[.]"[8]

At step three, the ALJ found that plaintiff did "not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart B, Appendix 1...."[9] The ALJ considered Listing 1.04 (disorders of the spine) and 5.05 (chronic liver disease).[10]

"Between steps three and four, the ALJ must, as an intermediate step, assess the claimant's RFC." Bray v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 554 F.3d 1219, 1222-23 (9th Cir. 2009). The ALJ found that plaintiff

has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b) except she can occasionally lift 20 pounds and frequently lift 10 pounds; sit for up to 6 hours in an 8 hour workday; stand and/or walk for approximately 6 hours in an 8 hour workday with normal breaks; frequently climb ramps or stairs; never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds; perform frequent balancing, occasional stooping, frequent kneeling, occasional crouching and frequent crawling.[11]

The ALJ gave great weight[12] to the opinions of Dr. Newton[13] and Dr. Haveliwala.[14] The ALJ gave no weight[15] to Dr. Bai's opinion.[16] The ALJ also gave no weight to Dr. Castro-Moure's opinion.[17]

The ALJ found plaintiff's pain and symptom statements less than credible because they were not corroborated by the medical evidence; because plaintiff received only conservative treatment after her June 2010 back surgery; because the evidence was inconsistent as to why plaintiff did not take narcotic pain medication; because plaintiff did not "follow[] up on recommendations for pain management therapy, [did not] receive[] any epidural steroid injections, or use[] a TENS unit[;]" because ...


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