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Patricia B. v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Oregon

April 9, 2019

PATRICIA B., [1] Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER

          JOLIE A. RUSSO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff brings this proceeding to obtain judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision denying plaintiff's application for disability insurance and supplemental security income benefits. Plaintiff asserts disability beginning October 22, 2013, due to back pain, high blood pressure, swelling feet, headaches, and chest pain. Tr. 231, 283.

         After a hearing held on September 26, 2016, an administrative law judge (ALJ) determined plaintiff was not disabled. Plaintiff asserts the ALJ erred by: (1) failing to provide legally sufficient reasons for rejecting plaintiff's symptom testimony; and (2) relying on expert testimony based on an incomplete picture of plaintiff's limitations.

         A. Plaintiff's Credibility

         Plaintiff testified she can't work because: she suffers from pain after sitting for ten to fifteen minutes; has to elevate her feet two times a day; has swelling in both hands with loss of strength and tingling in her fingers; has a limited range of motion; and gets sick throughout the day from her pain pills. Tr. 94. Plaintiff testified she had fusion surgery in 2014 and has had balance issues and left foot drop since then. Tr. 96-97. Plaintiff also testified she stopped physical therapy because “it hurt more than helped.” Tr. 95. In addition, plaintiff noted she had planned on further surgery to implant a spinal cord stimulator to address her pain issues. Tr. 94, 95-96.

         The ALJ found plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity to perform light work specifically finding plaintiff:

could lift and/or carry ten pounds frequently, twenty pounds occasionally; she can stand and/or walk for six hours out of an eight-hour workday; she can sit for six hours out of an eight-hour workday; she can occasionally climb ladders, ropes and scaffolds, stoop, and crawl; she can frequently kneel and climb ramps and stairs; and she is to avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold and hazards.

Tr. 58. Based on this finding and expert testimony, the ALJ determined plaintiff is capable of performing her past relevant work as a secretary and rehabilitation clerk. Tr. 62. In addition, the ALJ determined plaintiff could perform other work including receptionist, bookkeeper, and credit interviewer. Tr. 63-64.

         The ALJ accepted plaintiff's testimony only to the extent her testimony is consistent with the conclusion she can do the work described above. Tr. 59. The ALJ otherwise rejected plaintiff's testimony because plaintiff “engaged in a somewhat normal level of daily activity and interaction. The claimant admitted activities of daily living including she drives, did the books for church, mops, sweeps, does dishes, shops, goes to the movies, goes out to eat, and goes to church.” Tr. 59. The ALJ also found the physical and mental capabilities required to perform these daily activities replicate those necessary for obtaining and maintaining employment. Tr. 59. In addition, the ALJ, while accepting that plaintiff's medical impairments could reasonably cause the alleged symptoms, found the limiting effects of the symptoms were inconsistent with the medical evidence. Tr. 59. Moreover, the ALJ found the treatment record revealed routine, conservative, and non-emergency treatment since the alleged onset date. Tr. 60.

         1. Daily Activities

         Plaintiff specifically testified regarding her daily activities:

... So I read a lot. I can't write as much as I used to. I used to keep, like, journals. And I did, like, a lot of administrative work for my church previously, until I had the accident and started -- you know, I couldn't keep the accounting books anymore. And I really can't do, like, computer work or anything like that anymore. So I, kind of, just read and help my daughter.
Now, what I do have a problem with, like, say, if I have to mop or sweep or stand at the sink and do something, then I have that -- like, the pain from this side, and I can't stand there very long to do it. So I get a lot of help from my daughter. You know, her friends help me and my other family members, whenever they visit, help.

Tr. 97-98. Plaintiff further testified: she helps prepare meals; cannot do dishes, vacuum, or grocery shops; does not go to movies “as much anymore”; goes to eat out “now and then”; and goes to church, but sits close to the end of the pew so she ...


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