United States District Court, D. Arizona
Honorable Bruce G. Macdonald United States Magistrate Judge.
pending before the Court is Plaintiff's Opening Brief
(Doc. 18). Defendant filed his Brief (“Response”)
(Doc. 19), and Plaintiff filed her Reply (Doc. 20). Plaintiff
brings this cause of action for review of the final decision
of the Commissioner for Social Security pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). The United States Magistrate Judge has
received the written consent of both parties, and presides
over this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Rule
73, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
October 3, 2014, Plaintiff protectively filed a Title XVI
application for Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) alleging disability as of April 25, 2013
due to HIV positive status, severe depression and/or
adjustment disorder, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, peripheral
neuropathy, migraines, venous insufficiency with chronic
edema, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
(“COPD”) with allergy-induced asthma and mild
emphysema, sleep apnea, and hemorrhagia. See
Administrative Record (“AR”) at 15, 18, 165-66,
178-80, 295, 316, 320, 377. The Social Security
Administration (“SSA”) denied this application on
February 4, 2015. Id. at 15, 165-78, 192-95. On
February 20, 2015, Plaintiff filed a request for
reconsideration, and on March 30, 2015, SSA denied
Plaintiff's application upon reconsideration.
Id. at 15, 179-91, 196, 197-200. On May 13, 2015,
Plaintiff filed her request for hearing. Id. at 15,
204. On October 31, 2016, a hearing was held before
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Charles Davis
and on March 7, 2017, a supplemental hearing was held.
Id. at 15, 74-135. On August 23, 2017, the ALJ
issued an unfavorable decision. AR at 12-34. On October 17, 2017,
Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ's decision by the
Appeals Council, and on June 7, 2018, review was denied.
Id. at 1-6, 290-94. On September 4, 2018, Plaintiff
filed this cause of action. Compl. (Doc. 1).
was fifty-two (52) years old at the time of the
administrative hearings and forty-eight (48) at the time of
the alleged onset of her disability. AR at 32, 74, 108, 165,
178-80, 247, 264, 277, 279, 282, 295, 316, 377. Plaintiff
obtained a high school diploma and attended two (2) years of
college. Id. at 178-79, 321. Prior to her alleged
disability, Plaintiff worked as a resident relations director
for an apartment complex, a security guard, waitress, and
bartender. Id. at 32, 78-84, 322, 367-72.
initial administrative hearing, Plaintiff reviewed her work
history, which included a security guard, resident relations
director for a condominium/apartment conversion, as a
waitress, and a bartender. AR at 78-84. Plaintiff testified
that she lived with her aging mother and brother.
Id. at 84-85. Plaintiff further testified that she
cooks, does her own laundry, can drive, occasionally does the
grocery shopping, and takes her dog out in the apartment
complex. Id. at 85-87. Plaintiff also reviewed her
current conditions, medications, and treatment. Id.
March 7, 2017, at the supplemental administrative hearing,
Plaintiff confirmed that she has to keep moving, has problems
with her knees, cyclical vomiting, problems with her thought
process, and severe migraines. Id. at 120-21.
Plaintiff also confirmed that she was still living with her
mother and brother. AR at 122. Plaintiff testified that her
cyclical vomiting had improved some, and although she had an
episode approximately two (2) weeks prior to the hearing, it
only lasted a day or day and a half. Id. at 122-23.
Plaintiff further testified that she had more recently been
diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension and was having some
bladder issues. Id. at 123. Plaintiff also testified
that she regularly needs to change positions, because she
gets stiff easily. Id. Plaintiff reported that she
can sit for approximately fifteen (15) to twenty (20) minutes
and can stand for only five (5) to ten (10) minutes.
Id. at 124. Plaintiff also indicated that she can
lift approximately ten (10) pounds, but has been having
trouble with her right hand recently. AR at 124. Plaintiff
testified that she drops things, has difficulty writing and
typing, and has difficulty opening jars and doors.
Id. at 124-25. Plaintiff further testified that she
has migraines approximately six (6) or seven (7) days per
month, and takes medication, as well as lays in a dark room
away from other people. Id. at 125-26.
December 27, 2014, Plaintiff completed a Function
Report-Adult in this matter. AR 355-366. Plaintiff reported
that she lived in an apartment with family. Id. at
355. Plaintiff described the limitations of her medical
conditions as follows:
Psychologically, I have increasingly isolated myself
socially, still unable to cope w/exactly what the physical
impairments have taken from me. Physically, I have had little
to no energy, often needing naps in the middle of the day. I
hurt all of the time, even w/ the medication, but I don't
want to take the narcotic pain relievers, because my brain is
foggy enough most days. I limit my showers most days, because
I dread the pain caused by the water on my skin (neuralgia
pain). Due to the chronic urinrary [sic] stress incontinence,
I often leak through my clothes even when wearing pads, which
I always do.
If I'm around too many people, or too much noise, I get
jittery, most often turning to anxiety/panic attacks, even if
I know/am familiar with either. I struggle climbing steps, up
or down, due to pain in my hips (bursitis), knees
(osteoarthritis), and sometimes even my feet (plantar
fasicitis [sic]). When standing in one place, it is only a
short time before my lower back starts burnin [sic]/aching
and I have to lean on something to alleviate the pressure.
It's a little better if I'm actually moving/walking,
but I can only walk short distances before my knees start
hurting w/ my lower back and I have to stop and rest. If I
sit, I must consistently move & adjust my position, and
even then it is hard for me to stand and walk because the
stiffness sets in quickly. In all 3 instances, standing in
one place, moving/walking, & especially sitting too long,
my ankles, feet and calves start to swell from the venous
My memory has been affected & I have to set alarms to
remember simple things, like taking my medication. I forget
words, even easy ones sometimes, and recall is slow. Reading
is difficult because my mind wanders, and it took me close to
2 hours just to write his page and the previous one.
My muscles are weak, my stomach often hurts from the
gastritis, I rarely sleep w/o waking up multiple times thru
the night, so I am always tired. Trying to get on my knees is
a painful struggle, kneeling is worse & I have to use
objects or a wall to try & stand again.
Id. at 355-56. Plaintiff described her usual day as
having coffee while waiting for her stiffness to go away,
getting dressed, eating a small breakfast, going to
appointments or sometimes the store, sometimes getting on the
computer or watching television, taking her dog out for a
short walk, doing needlework or sewing, eating an early
dinner, taking her dog out for an evening walk, and watching
television while crocheting, then going to bed. Id.
at 357-58. Plaintiff reported that she feeds and waters her
dog, takes her out twice per day, bathes her in the sink, and
plays with her. Id. at 357, 360. Plaintiff also
reported that her mother sometimes feeds and waters her dog
or plays with her. AR at 357.
indicated that prior to her illness she was able to do
“everything” and was very social and active,
including reading and writing books, working around the house
and outside of the home, and spending time with her children
and grandchildren. Id. at 357-58. Plaintiff reported
that she now has sleep apnea due to the weight gain resultant
from her medications and emotional distress. Id. at
357. Plaintiff further reported that regarding her personal
care, dressing is difficult because of her balance issues,
showers are often painful, her hair usually stays in a braid,
and she has difficulty sitting and standing to use the
toilet. Id. at 359. Plaintiff noted that sometimes
her mother reminds her to take care of her personal needs and
to take her medication. Id. Plaintiff also reported
that she tries to eat healthy and cooks daily, with
preparation time up to an hour. AR at 359. Plaintiff reported
that she does laundry at the laundromat and washes dishes,
but has difficulty with dusting and bathroom cleaning because
she is sensitive to cleaning products and allergens.
Id. at 361. Plaintiff indicated that her mother
initiates tasks because of Plaintiff's lack of energy.
Id. at 360.
reported that she can drive, but sometimes is unable to go
out alone due to migraines or her medications. Id.
Plaintiff further reported that she is able to shop on the
computer, and sometimes for groceries in the store.
Id. Plaintiff also reported that she can pay bills,
count change, handle a savings account, and use a checkbook
or money orders. AR at 362. Plaintiff noted that she has to
be careful with money since the onset of her conditions
because she is more forgetful now. Id. Plaintiff
listed her pre-illness hobbies to include reading, writing,
television, sewing, crocheting or knitting, and being on the
computer. Id. Plaintiff reported that she does not
read anymore, does a little writing, watches television
daily, rarely sews, crochets when her hands do not hurt, and
cooks most of the time. Id. Plaintiff described
spending time watching television with her mother, texting
with her children and other family members, and talking on
the telephone or with people that she encounters while
walking her dog. Id.
indicated that she does not go out on a regular basis, and
when she does requires reminders and someone to accompany
her. AR at 362. Plaintiff described that since her conditions
began her social contact has dropped and she is depressed and
reserved. Id. at 363. Plaintiff reported that her
conditions affect her ability to lift, squat, bend, stand,
reach, walk, sit, kneel, talk, climb stairs, see, remember,
complete tasks, concentrate, and understand. Id.
Plaintiff further reported being able to walk between
one-half and one block before needing rest. Id.
Plaintiff also reported that she can pay attention a maximum
of ten (10) minutes at a time. Id. Plaintiff
indicated that she can follow written and spoken
instructions, but sometimes needs to either reread or have
the instructions repeated. AR at 363.
noted that she is able to get along with authority figures
and has never been fired or laid off because she could not
get along with people. Id. at 364. Plaintiff further
reported that she does not handle stress well, and needs time
to adjust to changes in routine due to anxiety, panic
attacks, and fear of rejection. I ...