United States District Court, D. Arizona
A. BOWMAN UNITED SUITES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
plaintiff filed this action for review of the final decision
of the Commissioner for Social Security pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). (Doc. 1, p. 1)
Magistrate Judge presides over this case pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636(c) having received the written consent of
both parties. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 73; (Doc. 12)
ALJ's decision to give little weight to the report from
the treating physician, Dr. Bacchus-Morris, is not supported
by specific and legitimate reasons. His decision to give
little weight to plaintiff Gurrola's subjective symptom
testimony is not supported by clear and convincing reasons.
The court does not reach Gurrola's alternate claims of
error. The case is remanded for payment of benefits.
October 23, 2013, the plaintiff, Sarah Gurrola, filed an
application for disability insurance benefits pursuant to
Title II and supplemental security income pursuant to Title
XVI of the Social Security Act. (Doc. 14-6, pp. 2-15) She
alleged disability beginning April 1, 2010 stemming from
lupus, fatigue, rheumatoid arthritis, depression,
fibromyalgia, and anxiety. (Doc. 14-7, pp. 11-12) She later
reported that she is also disabled due to migraines. (Doc.
14-7, p. 43) Her claims were denied initially on April 11,
2014 and again on reconsideration on September 18, 2014.
(Doc. 14-5, pp. 2-5, 7-10, 16-21) Gurrola appeared with
counsel at a hearing before Administrative Law Judge Charles
Davis on April 25, 2016. (Doc. 14-3, pp. 32, 34) He denied
her claim on July 25, 2016. (Doc. 14-3, p. 13) Gurrola filed
a Request for Review with the Appeals Council on September 7,
2016. (Doc. 14-3, pp. 2, 6) The Appeals Counsel denied her
request on November 24, 2017 making the decision of the ALJ
the final decision of the Commissioner. (Doc. 14-3, pp. 2, 6)
Work History and Medical History
was born in June of 1979. (Doc. 14-4, p. 4) She was 30 years
old on the alleged disability onset date and 36 when the ALJ
issued his decision in April of 2016. Id. She is a
high school graduate. (Doc. 14-7, p. 12)
April 1, 2010, Gurrola left her last full-time job as an
office processing manager for an auto glass replacement
company. (Doc. 14-3, p. 36); (Doc. 14-7, p. 12) She testified
that she “had to leave [her] job and couldn't work
anymore.” (Doc. 14-3, p. 36) In August of 2013, Gurrola
was involved in a serious motor vehicle accident. (Doc. 14-9,
p. 46) She sustained multiple fractures to her pelvis and
spine and developed chronic pain. Id. Since then,
she worked briefly as an office worker on a part-time basis
for two hours per day. Id.; (Doc. 14-3, p. 43); (Tr.
42); (Doc. 14-7, p. 12); (Tr. 249) She was discharged because
she was not reliable enough. (Doc. 14-3, p. 37)
Armstrong, M.D., and Ralph Robinowitz, Ph.D., evaluated
Gurrola's initial claim for the disability determination
service. (Doc. 14-4 pp. 2-28) They diagnosed her with
systemic lupus erythematosus, disorders of the back, obesity
and affective disorders. Id. at 8
completed Gurrola's psychiatric review on April 8, 2014.
(Doc. 14-4, p. 10) He found that she has a medically
determinable mental impairment that does not precisely
satisfy the “A” diagnostic criteria for an
affective disorder. Id. at 9 Under the ‘B'
criteria, he found that the disorder imposed mild restriction
of activities of daily living; mild difficulties in
maintaining social functioning; and mild difficulties in
maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace. Id.
He found no repeated extended episodes of decompensation.
Id. He also found that the impairment did not
satisfy the ‘C' criteria of the listings.
evaluated Gurrola's physical residual functional capacity
(RFC) on February 13, 2014. (Doc. 14-4, pp. 11-13) She
indicated that Gurrola could frequently lift or carry 10
pounds and occasionally 20 pounds. Id. Gurrola could
stand or walk for a total of four hours and sit for six hours
out of an eight-hour day. Id. Gurrola could only
occasionally climb ramps, stairs, ladders, ropes, and
scaffolds and could only occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch,
or crawl due to her morbid obesity. Id. at 11-12
September of 2014, Nathan Strause, M.D., and Eric Penner,
Ph.D., evaluated Gurrola's claim for the disability
determination service on reconsideration. They found the same
impairments that were present during her first evaluation.
(Doc. 14-4, pp. 38-41, 52-56)
findings on the psychiatric criteria were identical to
Robinowitz's. (Doc. 14-4, p. 38) Strause's findings
on her physical RFC were identical to Armstrong's except
he noted that “alternation of positions of sitting
should be accommodated in normal wor[k] day with usual breaks
and lunch.” Id. at 40-41.
on June 12, 2014, Gurrola's treating physician, Amanda
Bacchus-Morris, M.D., completed a Physical Residual
Functional Capacity Assessment. (Doc. 14-9, p. 46); (Doc.
14-10, p. 43) She opined that Gurrola could stand for 2 hours
or less during an 8-hour day and sit for 30-60 minutes at a
time. (Doc. 14-10, p. 43) She could walk one block at one
time before needing to stop. Id. She could lift and
carry 10 pounds occasionally. Id. She would be
unable to work more than five days per month due to her
appeared with counsel at a hearing before the ALJ on April
25, 2016. (Doc. 14-3, p. 34) She explained that her last full
time job was in 2010, working as an office manager at an auto
glass shop. (Doc. 14-3, p. 38) After that, she worked at a
Cox call center “for about two weeks.”
2014, Gurrola had another part-time job doing office work for
an electrician. (Doc. 14-3, pp. 36-37, 43) She was
“matching up billing, [doing] data entry, [and]
filing” for one to four hours a day. Id. at 37
She could not work full-time because on some mornings she
would have “a headache so bad [she could] not see
straight, ” or might be “sick and nauseous and
vomiting.” Id. She also testified that there
are “times [she] can't move [her] arms very well at
all and just [has] overall sick feeling and pain.”
Id. She was discharged because she was not reliable
believes that pain and nausea prevents her from working now.
(Doc. 14-3, pp. 37-38) Also, her “cognitive abilities
are not all there as well.” Id. at 38
“It's very hard for [her] to concentrate and stay
focused, [and] sit, [and] stand.” Id. at 38.
lives with her seventeen-year-old daughter and five-year-old
son. (Doc. 14-3, p. 39) Her son is with her Friday afternoon
through Monday evening. Id. at 39-40 During the day,
she tries to keep the house tidy and “take care of
whatever needs to be taken care of.” Id. at 40
She shops for groceries if she is able, runs errands, and
transports the children. Id. She is able to bathe
and dress herself, and handle her own finances. Id.
She can cook, but she alternates between sitting and standing
and needs “breaks in between.” Id. at 41
She does laundry, but she cannot carry the basket because her
hands and shoulders hurt. Id. She can wash dishes
for short periods and drive. Id. She considers her
daughter her “right hand.” Id. at 42 She
rests a lot during the day and does not exercise.
Id. She does not do anything outside the house and
cannot sit through a movie in a theater. Id. at 43
She does not take pain medication except for Fioricet, which
she takes if her headache is “to the point where [she]
can't open [her] eyes, and [she] can't function
properly, ” which is about three to four times a week.
Id. at 45 The medication makes her tired.
Id. It may make her nauseous too, but she is
nauseous at all times. Id. at 46.
testified that she spends “roughly about 70% of [her]
day either at the toilet vomiting or the other way, ”
although she conceded that “70%” might be an
overestimation. (Doc. 14-3, p. 46) She hurts everywhere,
especial her collarbone, shoulders, lower back, hips, ankles,
toes, fingers, and head. Id. at 47 She does not take
pain medication for her body aches and has not done so since
the summer of 2015 because the medication makes her feel
worse. Id. Her healthcare providers have told her
not to push herself. Id. at 47-48 She has difficulty
lifting a gallon of milk. Id. at 48 She can stand
for about 10 to 15 minutes before she starts shifting
uncomfortably and feeling pain. Id. She has not been
able to lift her son since he was three-years-old, either
because of his growth or her worsening condition.
Id. at 49 She has taken medication for depression in
the past. Id. Her brain has not been functioning
well since she was tasered in the head by her daughter's
girlfriend's father in early 2015. Id. at 50-51
further testified that she had negative reactions from pain
medications such as Topamax and Imitrex. (Doc. 14-3, p. 52)
She also had negative reactions to morphine and oxycodone.
Id. at 52-53 She tried them for a year and a half,
and although they seemed to work in the beginning, toward the
end, “they were making [her] body hurt more.”
Id. She stated, “They were making my brain so
I couldn't function properly.” Id. at 53
difficulty standing up without something to hold on to. (Doc.
14-3, p. 53) She worries about being in the sun too much.
Id. at 54 When she ...