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Zamora v. Astrue

March 9, 2009

ELPIDIO ZAMORA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,*FN1 DEFENDANT.



ORDER

This social security action was submitted, without oral argument, for ruling on plaintiff's motion for summary judgment or remand and defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment. For the reasons explained below, plaintiff's motion for remand is granted, the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner) is reversed, and this matter is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this order.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On April 1, 2004, plaintiff applied for disability benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, alleging onset of disability on January 23, 2002. (Transcript (Tr.) at 49-52.) Plaintiff's application was denied initially on May 27, 2004 and upon reconsideration on September 29, 2004. (Tr. at 33-46.) Pursuant to plaintiff's request received on October 26, 2004, a hearing was held before an administrative law judge (ALJ) on September 15, 2005, at which plaintiff was represented by counsel and testified through a Spanish interpreter. (Tr. at 47-48, 275-303.)

In a decision issued on December 16, 2005, ALJ Mark C. Ramsey denied plaintiff's claim for benefits. (Tr. at 13-24.) The ALJ entered the following findings:

1. The claimant meets the non-disability requirements for a period of disability and Disability Insurance Benefits set forth in Section 216(i) of the Social Security Act and is insured for benefits through the date of this decision.

2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset of disability.

3. The claimant's crush injury to the left upper extremity and resulting sympathetic dystrophy, complex regional pain syndrome, and bilateral shoulder strains are considered "severe" based on the requirements in the Regulations 20 CFR § 404.1520(c).

4. These medically determinable impairments do not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments in Appendix 1, Subpart P, Regulation No. 4.

5. The undersigned finds the claimant's allegations regarding his limitations are not totally credible for the reasons set forth in the body of the decision.

6. The claimant has the following residual functional capacity: light work that does not require any use of the left upper extremity and does not require climbing ramps or stairs more than occasionally, and which requires no climbing of ladders, ropes, or scaffolds.

7. The claimant is unable to perform any of his past relevant work (20 CFR § 404.1565).

8. The claimant is a "younger individual between the ages of 18 and 44" (20 CFR § 404.1563).

9. The claimant is "unable to communicate in English" (20 CFR § 404.1564).

10. Transferability of skills is not an issue in this case (20 CFR § 404.1568).

11. The claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform a significant range of light work (20 CFR § 404.1567).

12. Although the claimant's exertional limitations do not allow him to perform the full range of light work, using Medical-Vocational Rule 202.16 and 202.18 as a framework for decision-making, there are a significant number of jobs in the national economy that he could perform. Examples of such jobs include work as school bus monitor, barker, host, surveillance system monitor, and chaperone (Exhibits 4E, 6E).

13. The claimant was not under a "disability," as defined in the Social Security Act, at any time through the date of this decision (20 CFR § 404.1520(g)).

(Tr. at 23-24.)

Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ's decision on February 9, 2006. (Tr. at 259-63.) The Appeals Council denied the request for review on August 25, 2006. (Tr. at 5-7.) Plaintiff then sought judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) by filing the complaint in this action on October 24, 2006.

LEGAL STANDARD

The Commissioner's decision that a claimant is not disabled will be upheld if the findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence and the proper legal standards were applied. Schneider v. Comm'r of the Soc. Sec. Admin., 223 F.3d 968, 973 (9th Cir. 2000); Morgan v. Comm'r of the Soc. Sec. Admin., 169 F.3d 595, 599 (9th Cir. 1999). The findings of the Commissioner as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, are conclusive. Miller v. Heckler, 770 F.2d 845, 847 (9th Cir. 1985). Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to ...


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