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Murphy v. Astrue

May 5, 2009

ANNE M. MURPHY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



ORDER

This social security action was submitted to the court, without oral argument, for ruling on plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment. For the reasons explained below, plaintiff's motion is granted, the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner) is reversed, and the matter is remanded with the direction to award disability benefits.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act on January 24, 2000, alleging onset of disability on August 16, 1993. (Transcript (Tr.) at 84-86.) The application was denied initially in April 2000 and upon reconsideration in July 2000. (Tr. at 57-71.) A hearing was held before an administrative law judge (ALJ) in Medford, Oregon on March 19, 2002. (Tr. at 72-73, 827-82.) Plaintiff was represented by counsel and testified at the hearing, as did her husband and a vocational expert. (Tr. at 530-56.) The ALJ held a second administrative hearing on July 12, 2002, for the purpose of taking testimony from a medical expert and a second vocational expert. (Tr. at 883-938.) In a partially favorable decision dated August 9, 2002, the ALJ determined that plaintiff had been disabled since January 24, 2000, the date on which she filed her application. (Tr. at 23-34.) As a result of the decision with regard to the disability onset date, plaintiff was not entitled to any disability benefits because she was not under a disability prior to December 31, 1994, her date last insured for such benefits. (Tr. at 34.) Plaintiff was also found to be under a disability as of January 24, 2000 for purposes of Medicare benefits. (Id.)

On August 27, 2004, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review. (Tr. at 6-10, 15-16.) Plaintiff then sought judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) by filing a complaint in this court on November 1, 2004. Murphy v. Comm'r of Social Security, case No. CIV S-04-2389 CMK (E.D. Cal.). On March 15, 2006, United States Magistrate Judge Craig M. Kellison issued an order granting plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, denying defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment, and remanding the case to the Commissioner for further proceedings consistent with the court's order. (Tr. at 959-76.)

On June 16, 2006, the Appeals Council remanded the case to the ALJ for further proceedings consistent with the district court's order. (Tr. at 979.) At the hearing conducted on November 8, 2006, plaintiff was represented by counsel and testified, as did her husband, and a third vocational expert. (Tr. at 989-1016.) In a decision dated February 21, 2007, the ALJ determined again that plaintiff was not disabled prior to December 31, 1994. (Tr. at 942-52.) The ALJ entered the following findings in this regard:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 1994.

2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 16, 1993, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1520(b) and 404.1571 et seq.).

3. Prior to the claimant's date last insured, the claimant had the following severe combination of impairments: history of injury, degenerative disc disease, headaches, torn meniscus status-post surgery, a history of right shoulder impingement syndrome status-post surgery, a history of vertigo, and depression. (20 CFR 404.1520(c)).

4. Prior to the claimant's date last insured, the claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525 and 404.1526).

5. After careful consideration of the entire record, it is found that for the period from August 16, 1993, the alleged onset date, to December 31, 1994, the date last insured, the claimant had the residual functional capacity to lift and carry no more than 10 pounds, was able to sit for 30 minutes at a time, and was able to stand and/or walk for 30 minutes at a time, with the opportunity to change position. In addition, the claimant was restricted from crouching or crawling, and was limited to only occasional stair climbing, balancing, stooping, bending or kneeling. She had difficulty reaching overhead and difficulty walking on rough ground. Lastly, the claimant had difficulty consistently following detailed instructions.

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

7. The claimant was born on December 31, 1947, and was 47 years old on December 31, 1994, her date last insured, which is defined as a younger individual age 45-49 (20 CFR § 404.1563).

8. The claimant has a high school education and police academy training, and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR § 404.1564).

9. Transferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability because using the Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding that the claimant is "not disabled," whether or not the claimant has transferable job skills (See SSR 82-41 and 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).

10. Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform (20 CFR 404.1560(c) and 404.1566).

11. The claimant was not under a "disability," as defined in the Social Security Act, prior to her date last insured of December 31, 1994 (20 CFR 404.1520(g)).

12. For purposes of entitlement for Medicare benefits, the claimant has been under a "disability," as defined in the Social Security Act, since ...


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