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Clark v. Astrue

March 4, 2009

RANDALL CLARK, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jennifer T. Lum United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER PROCEEDINGS

On June 2, 2008, Randall Clark ("plaintiff") filed a Complaint seeking review of the Social Security Administration's denial of his application for Disability Insurance Benefits. On June 19, 2008, plaintiff filed a Consent to Proceed Before United States Magistrate Judge Jennifer T. Lum. On September 29, 2008, Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security ("defendant"), filed a Consent to Proceed Before United States Magistrate Judge Jennifer T. Lum. Thereafter, on November 14, 2008, defendant filed an Answer to the Complaint. On January 27, 2009, the parties filed their Joint Stipulation.

The matter is now ready for decision.

BACKGROUND

On December 14, 2006, plaintiff filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits alleging a disability onset date of June 30, 1996. (See Administrative Record ["AR"] at 100-102). The Commissioner denied plaintiff's application for benefits both initially and upon reconsideration. (AR at 56-59, 46-55). Thereafter, plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). (AR at 65).

On December 27, 2007, the ALJ conducted a video hearing. (See AR at 17-44). Plaintiff appeared in San Bernardino, California, and the ALJ presided over the hearing from Portland, Maine. (AR at 19). Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified. (AR at 24-37). Peter B. Webber, M.D., a vocational expert, and Carla Clark, plaintiff's ex-wife, also testified at the hearing. (AR at 30-40, 40-43). On February 7, 2008, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits to plaintiff. (AR at 8-16). The ALJ determined that plaintiff last met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act on September 30, 1997 ("the date last insured"). (AR at 9, 10). The ALJ determined that plaintiff had the following severe impairment: the residuals of three surgical repairs of recurring inguinal hernias. (AR at 11). The ALJ noted that plaintiff had the following non-severe impairments - chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder and affective and anxiety related disorders - as well as an arthritic back and knee or groin disorder other than the hiatal hernias that was not medically determinable. (Id.). The ALJ found that plaintiff's conditions did not meet or equal any of the impairments contained in the Listing of Impairments (see 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1). (AR at 11-12). The ALJ discounted plaintiff's allegations of more severe physical and mental limitations (AR at 12-15), and determined that, through the date last insured, plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity to perform light work, excluding any work that requires more than occasional balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching or crawling. (AR at 12). The ALJ found that, through the date last insured, there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that plaintiff could have performed and found plaintiff disabled under the framework of Medical Vocational Rule 202.20 (see 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2). (AR at 15-16). Thus, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff was not disabled from June 30, 1996, plaintiff's alleged onset date, through September 30, 1997, the date last insured. (AR at 16). The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's timely request for review of the ALJ's decision. (AR at 2-4).

Thereafter, plaintiff appealed to the United States District Court.

PLAINTIFF'S CONTENTIONS

Plaintiff makes the following claims:

1. The ALJ failed to properly consider the Global Assessment of Functioning ("GAF") score of 45 assigned to plaintiff by an examining psychiatrist at the Barstow Counseling Center on June 19, 2007.

2. The ALJ failed to meet her duty to develop the record regarding plaintiff's mental impairments.

3. The ALJ failed to properly consider the lay witness testimony of Carla Clark, plaintiff's ex-wife, regarding plaintiff's functional limitations.

4. The ALJ failed to consider the impact of plaintiff's non-exertional limitations at step five of ...


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