Geraldine C. v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 3:20-cv-00289-AC

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Oregon)
Writing for the CourtJOHN V. ACOSTA United States Magistrate Judge.
Docket Number3:20-cv-00289-AC
Decision Date30 August 2021

GERALDINE C.[1] Plaintiff,


No. 3:20-cv-00289-AC

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

August 30, 2021


JOHN V. ACOSTA United States Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Geraldine C. (“Plaintiff”) filed this action under section 205(g) of the Social Security Act (“Act”) as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), to review the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) who denied her social security disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and supplemental security income (“SSI”) (collectively “Benefits”).

The court finds the ALJ provided clear and convincing reasons for discounting Plaintiff's testimony, offered proper justification for finding medical opinion evidence unpersuasive, and did not have a duty to obtain additional medical evidence with respect to Plaintiff's physical limitations. Accordingly, the Commissioner's final decision is supported by substantial evidence in the record and is affirmed.[2]

Procedural Background

On or about September 29, 2017, Plaintiff filed an application for Benefits alleging an onset date of February 28, 2017.[3] The application was denied initially, on reconsideration, and by Administrative Law Judge Cynthia D. Rosa (“ALJ”) after a hearing. The Appeals Council denied review and the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner.

Factual Background

Plaintiff is sixty-two years old. She completed the eleventh grade. Her past relevant work experience includes certified nurse assistant and home health care worker. Plaintiff has not been involved in a successful work attempt since February 28, 2017. She initially alleged disability because of arthritis in both knees and degenerative disc disorder and later included mental health issues. Plaintiff meets the insured status requirements entitling her to DIB through December 31, 2022.

I. Testimony

Plaintiff completed a function report in late October 2017 (“Report”), in which she described her daily activities as “wake up take bath eat watch TV.” (Tr. of Social Security Administrative R., ECF No. 13 (“Admin. R.”), at 217.) She maintained her personal care and grooming without assistance, prepared food daily (sandwiches and frozen dinners), completed household chores (ironing, laundry), drove a car twice a week, and shopped for food, clothes, and personal items in stores for up to twenty minutes at a time. (Admin. R. at 218-19.) Plaintiff talked on the telephone every day and attended church every other Sunday but did not like socializing because her son was “murdered”[4] and it “hurt” her to see others enjoying their families and children. (Admin. R. at 220-21.) She had no difficulty paying bills, counting change, handling a savings account, or using a checkbook or money orders. (Admin. R. at 220.)

In the Report, Plaintiff indicated her knee and back pain limited her ability to squat, bend, stand, reach, sit, kneel, and climb stairs. (Admin. R. at 221.) She could lift twenty pounds with her right hand and walk for twenty-five minutes before needing to rest for ten minutes. (Admin R. at 221.) She followed both written and spoken instructions well but had difficulty getting along with authority figures and handling stress and changes in routines. (Admin. R. at 221-22.) Plaintiff reported difficulty sleeping and standing for extended periods due to knee and back pain. (Admin. R. at 217-18.)

At the April 24, 2019 Hearing before the ALJ (“Hearing”), Plaintiff testified she now lived with her husband who works as a laborer and spends her days in her bed watching television and crying. (Admin. R. at 41, 47, 49.) She reported she did not leave the house much to “socialize” as she did not want to be “bothered with” or “around” people, ” but drove about once a week to the grocery store or a doctor's appointment and attended church weekly. (Admin. R. at 41-42, 48-50.) Plaintiff did not do her own grocery shopping because she was unable to stand for very long. (Admin. R. at 48, 50.) Rather, her husband shopped from a list she provided while she sat in the car. (Admin. R. at 48, 50.) Except for loading the dishwasher, which Plaintiff could handle, Plaintiff's husband took care of the housework, including the cleaning, vacuuming, mopping, and laundry. (Admin. R. at 48-49.)

Plaintiff worked for twenty-five years as a care provider in a nursing home and occasionally provided in-home care for her aunt and sister. (Admin. R. at 44.) Plaintiff initially testified she stopped working in early 2017 because of “too much wear and tear on my body . . . my knees and back . . . [are] giving out on me” but then admitted she “was not able to work [] because my nursing license was suspended . . . and that's all the work I ever did in my life.” (Admin. R. at 44-45.) She explained she “can't pass the background check, so I can't work, ” and additionally claimed she could no longer work because of back and knee pain and her “mental state is not there anymore.” (Admin. R. at 47-48.) Plaintiff believed she could stand for fifteen-to-twenty minutes, sit about thirty minutes, and lift and carry a gallon of milk. (Admin. R. at 53.) She explained her son died and she missed him so much she was unable to function or turn her mind off. (Admin. R. at 54.) She did not “want to socialize with people because of holidays and stuff . . . they got their kids, and then mine is not around” so “I don't want to be bothered with anybody.” (Admin. R. at 54.)

II. Medical Evidence

A. Medical Providers

1. Physical Health

On October 16, 2017, Plaintiff initiated care with Rebecca Glaseroff Lindsay, M.D. (“Dr. Lindsay”), for complaints of chronic knee pain and arthritis of the back. (Admin. R. at 277.) Plaintiff reported pain with motion and tenderness in her left low back and buttocks during the examination, but Dr. Lindsay's observations were otherwise unremarkable. (Admin. R. at 278.) Dr. Lindsay prescribed a muscle relaxant and pain medication and referred Plaintiff to physical therapy and a spine center. (Admin. R. at 297, 299.)

On December 4, 2017, Plaintiff began physical therapy with Daniel Howard Cooper, D.P.T. (“Cooper”). (Admin. R. at 428-31.) Plaintiff indicated she suffered from low-back pain for five years and knee pain for twenty years. (Admin. R. at 429.) She claimed she could not stand for more than fifteen-to-twenty minutes or walk for more than fifteen-to-forty-five minutes without the onset of pain. (Admin. R. at 429-30.) Cooper noted Plaintiff had some limitations in exercising, walking, standing, and sleeping with a low complexity level, opined Plaintiff “will benefit from skilled PT intervention to reduce symptoms and optimize functional movement in order to resume pain free [activities of daily living] and walking, ” and recommended twelve additional visits over the next three months. (Admin. R. at 431.) The following week, Maura R. Gabriel, P.T. (“Gabriel”), added limitations in lifting, described Plaintiff's complexity as high, and recommended seven additional appointments, but also opined Plaintiff would benefit from physical therapy to resume normal activities and walking. (Admin. R. at 423-25.) Gabriel indicated Plaintiff's “decreased range of motion, decreased strength, decreased motor control, decreased postural awareness, decreased awareness of body mechanics, decreased balance, abnormal gait pattern and pain is/are impairing patient's ability to walk[] and mov[e] around.” (Admin. R. at 476.) Later that month, Dr. Lindsay added medications for nerve pain and referred Plaintiff to a chronic pain program. (Admin. R. at 373-75.)

In early January 2018, Plaintiff consulted with Melissa L. Hockett, M.S.W. (“Hockett”), a provider at a pain management clinic. (Admin. R. at 418-19.) Plaintiff reported she has had “all over body pain” and back and knee pain for years which she occasionally treats with a pain pill, icy hot spray, and a heating pad. (Admin. R. at 418.) Hockett described Plaintiff to have normal cognition and verbal presentation with relaxed, calm, open, and interested behavior. (Admin. R. at 419.)

Michael Peter Lamore, L.C.S.W. (“Lamore”), also evaluated Plaintiff for pain management in January 2018. (Admin. R. at 413-18.) Plaintiff reported pain at an average level of nine which she described as aching, burning, dull, throbbing, sharp, shooting, electric, pressure, constant, numbness, tingling, and pins and needles. (Admin. R. at 415.) She claimed her pain increased when she moved, stood, and reclined and she did not sleep well due to achy legs, burning heels, and bad dreams. (Admin. R. at 415.) Plaintiff described her strengths to include her capacity to tolerate painful emotions, flexibility in thinking and behavior, expressive language and communication skills, openness, and empathy but admitted she needed to address her traumatic childhood experiences and the murder of her son. (Admin. R. at 414.) Lamore described Plaintiff as alert and oriented with fair eye contact, normal psychomotor activity and speech, good mood with a sad and flat affect, and good cognition, judgment, and insight. (Admin. R. at 417.) He recommended Plaintiff participate in various coping classes, physical therapy, biofeedback, alternative therapies such as acupuncture, massage, anti-inflammatory diet, and mental health counseling. (Admin. R. at 414.)

Dr. Lindsay examined and provided care for medical issues unrelated to Plaintiff's knee and back pain, such as diarrhea, hypertension, diabetes, night sweats, weight loss, and sexual dysfunction, from March to August 2018. (Admin. R. at 497-98, 519, 554-71, 583-86, 594-96.) In May 2018, Plaintiff reported she is “doing well overall now that her husband is back and she has housing” and her “depression [was] improving.” (Admin. R. at 561-62.) Dr. Lindsey consistently described Plaintiff as “alert, well appearing, [and in] no acute distress” and did...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT