Pallesi v. Colvin

Decision Date11 December 2014
Docket NumberCase No. 1:13-CV-01813-SMS
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of California


(DOC. 1)

Plaintiff Angelic R. Pallesi by her attorneys, Law Offices of Lawrence D. Rohlfing, seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying her application for disability insurance benefits pursuant to Title II and for supplemental security income ("SSI") pursuant to Title XVI of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. § 301 et seq.) (the "Act"). The matter is before the Court on the parties' cross-briefs, which were submitted without oral argument to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge. Following a review of the complete record and applicable law, the Court finds the decision of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") premised on legal error and not supported by substantial evidence.


On November 23, 2010, Plaintiff applied for disability insurance and SSI benefits. In the application, Plaintiff alleged disability beginning September 15, 2009. The Commissioner initially denied the claims on February 25, 2011, and upon reconsideration again denied the claims on June 16, 2011. On July 6, 2011, Plaintiff timely filed a request for a hearing.

On May 22, 2012, Plaintiff appeared and testified in front of Tamia N. Gordon, Administrative Law Judge ("the ALJ"). See 20 C.F.R. 404.929 et seq. Plaintiff was represented by counsel. An impartial vocational expert and industrial psychologist, Alan E. Cummings ("the VE"), appeared and testified telephonically.

On May 25, 2012, the ALJ denied Plaintiff's application. The Appeals Council denied review on September 12, 2013, thus the ALJ's decision became the Commissioner's final decision. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(h). On November 7, 2013, Plaintiff filed a complaint seeking this Court's review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3).

A. Plaintiff's Testimony
1. Hearing: May 22, 2012

At the time of the hearing, Plaintiff, born October 28, 1981, lived in an apartment with her nine-year-old son. Plaintiff was able to communicate in English, completed high school, and had received a certificate as a "medical assistant" from a vocational college. Plaintiff testified she was approximately five feet six inches tall, right-handed, and weighed 153 pounds. She stated that she received general assistance, food stamps, and Medical. Plaintiff testified that she last worked in 2009 as a fast food store manager, and her prior jobs included fast food crew member, rain gutter installer, telemarketer, canvasser, and slot-floor supervisor at a casino. Plaintiff testified that she was not currently working and had not worked since 2009.

Plaintiff testified that her chief complaint and basis for her disability claim was her depression and anxiety. She reported being somewhat improved because without her medications she used to have "outbursts," but these were managed by her current medications. Plaintiff stated that her depression and anxiety, however, were not under control. Either due to her anxiety or as a side effect of her medications, for example, her head was completely bald in the back and had been for two years. Plaintiff testified that her treating therapist told her that it was alopecia, and that herhair would likely grow back. She was also "frightened to go outside." She testified that her depression was worse and not improving.

Plaintiff testified that she managed her self-care. Plaintiff reported that she was able to handle finances, and shop for food once a month for an hour. Plaintiff stated that she was capable of light household chores such as cooking meals, shopping, basic housework, mopping, sweeping, vacuuming, and laundry. Plaintiff testified that during a typical day she gets up at seven o'clock, prepares her son for school, walks him to school, gets home, does some light housework, watches television, generally waits for her son to get home, and when he does she helps him with his homework, cooks dinner, and they go to bed around 8 p.m. On days when she is unable to venture outside due to anxiety, she testified that her son walks to school with his cousin, who also lives in their building. Plaintiff testified that she did not drive and had not driven "in about a year."

Plaintiff alleged onset of disability in December 2009, reported that she has had nearly lifelong mental health issues and she had significantly declined since her infant son's death. She explained that her depression affected her everyday life "because I'm stuck grieving." She described effects of her anxiety that, for example, she cries so hard that she "can't breathe." When asked what barred her from working, Plaintiff answered "my depression." She reported that "little things" made her cry and that going out amplified her anxiety such that when she was "out somewhere away from my home," she did not feel safe.

Plaintiff complained of mental impairments. To manage her mental health, Plaintiff reported taking multiple prescriptions over the years. She testified that she was presently taking mirtazapine (45mg.) for depression, as well as hydroxyzine (four times per day) for anxiety, both as prescribed by her treating physician at Fresno County Department of Behavioral Health, Dr. Luu. She reported being medication compliant. Plaintiff testified that she saw a therapist, first once a week, and now "down to two times per month." Plaintiff testified that, as a result of her increased anxiety, her therapist had in the prior month "bumped" her medication from "two times to four times [daily]."Other than her treating physician, Plaintiff reported receiving mental health treatment at the Pathways Program and that she had seen multiple mental health professionals about her depression, anxiety, concentration, and other mental health issues.

Plaintiff testified that her depression affected her ability to focus or concentrate so that she could stay focused for only15-20 minutes. She stated that she seldom completed tasks, if she started them at all and reported daily having three to four uncontrollable crying spells, each lasting five to ten minutes. The ALJ asked whether Plaintiff had physical limitations, to which Plaintiff responded that she had arthritis in her back and neck. Plaintiff estimated that she could walk approximately 20 minutes before needing to rest, stand for an hour before she had to sit, sit for 30 minutes at a time, and could occasionally lift approximately 30-40 pounds.

2. Adult Function Report

In an Adult Function Report dated January 5, 2011, Plaintiff complained of depression and anxiety. Plaintiff wrote that she took care of her then eight-year-old son and their cat. Plaintiff reported that before onset of her condition, she "was able to cope with things." After the alleged onset, she wore the same clothes "day after day sometimes," bathed twice per day, her hair had fallen out from stress, she shaved once per month, she had stopped eating for a month and had been hospitalized, and she "just gave up" when her baby died. Plaintiff wrote that if she required special reminders to take care of personal needs and grooming, her grandmother told her. Her grandmother also called her with help or reminders to take medicine. She reported that she was able to make simple meals and perform light housework such as dishes, vacuuming, dusting, laundry, and picking up, which she cumulatively performed for "3 hrs [hours] a day." She further reported that she needed help or encouragement to do those things because "I'm not very social so for me to go out someone would have to really convince me it's ok." She stated that other than caring for her son, she left the house only to go to Pathways because "the outside world scares me." She reported that she did not drive or have a license. She wrote that she shopped once per month for "about an hour."Plaintiff reported that she could handle her finances, though not pay her bills apparently for lack of funds. She listed her daily hobbies as "watching tv and listening to music." She paced as she listened to music. Plaintiff explained that her social activities were limited to going to Pathways on weekdays for three hours per day. She tended to forget appointments. In describing whether she had problems getting along with family, friends, neighbors, or others, she wrote, "the death of my baby caused problems." She reported that her social activities had changed since the onset of her condition in that she no longer wanted to go outside, was "very depressed," and had anxiety.

Plaintiff listed problems with talking, hearing, memory, completing tasks, concentration, understanding, following instructions, using hands, and getting along with others. She wrote, "I really don't want to participate in talking or listening to people." She estimated that she could pay attention for five to seven minutes. She did not sleep well, was easily tired, could only concentrate for short periods, did not finish what she started, followed written instructions "not very good," and spoken instructions apparently adequately but that she would "still have to ask questions." Plaintiff reported getting along with authority figures "not very good," though she had not ever been fired or laid from a job because of problems getting along with other people. She reported that she experienced great difficulty handling stress or changes in routine. She reported that she had unusual behavior or fears in that she had an unusual level of stress and anxiety illustrated by her aversion to going out in public. Plaintiff listed her daily medications as Zoloft (150 mg, prescribed during her pregnancy), Naproxen (500 mg. twice daily, prescribed November 17, 2010), Clonidine (0.1mg. three times daily for...

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