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Cortez v. Astrue

September 3, 2009

MARIA SONIA CORTEZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: VICTOR B. Kenton United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

(Social Security Case)

This matter is before the Court for review of the decision by the Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff's application for disability benefits. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(c), the parties have consented that the case may be handled by the Magistrate Judge. The action arises under 42 U.S.C. §405(g), which authorizes the Court to enter judgment upon the pleadings and transcript of the Administrative Record ("AR") before the Commissioner. The parties have filed the Joint Stipulation ("JS"), and the Commissioner has filed the certified AR.

Plaintiff raises the following issue:

1. Whether the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") failed to provide clear and convincing reasons to reject Plaintiff's subjective testimony. (JS at 3.)

This Memorandum Opinion will constitute the Court's findings of fact and conclusions of law. After reviewing the matter, the Court concludes that for the reasons set forth, the decision of the Commissioner must be reversed.

I. THE ALJ PROVIDED INSUFFICIENT AND UNSUBSTANTIAL REASONS TO DEPRECIATE PLAINTIFF'S CREDIBILITY

Plaintiff asserts the ALJ failed to provide clear and convincing reasons to reject her subjective pain testimony.

A. Analysis of the Record

In a Pain Questionnaire dated September 29, 2005 (AR 110-112), Plaintiff asserted that she has pain in her low back, and from her right hip to her knee. It occurs when she is standing up, bending, or doing any movement. After resting for one to two hours, the pain dissipates. She takes numerous medications for her pain every day, and has been doing so for four to five years. The medication can relieve the pain in approximately one hour; however, it causes dizziness, drowsiness, and nausea. The pain first affected her activities in October 2004. Since then, her daily activities have diminished. She needs assistance with daily chores, can walk one or two blocks at a time, can stand 15 to 25 minutes at a time, and can sit one to two hours at a time. (Id.)

The numerous medications which Plaintiff takes for her pain are documented in the Kaiser Permanente records. (AR 408.) These include the narcotic pain reliever Oxycodone three times a day; the prescription pain reliever Tramodol four times a day; a once-weekly injection of Methotrexate for arthritis; regular office visits for infusions of Remicade; and Prednisone, a steroid, three times a day. (Id.)

At her hearing before the ALJ, Plaintiff provided detailed answers to questions concerning the nature and extent of her pain. (AR 52-55.) Her medical records document continued severe pain in her left knee and lower back, after she received hip surgery. (AR 280, 288.)

Plaintiff testified that her medications make her nauseated, dizzy, confused and sleepy. (AR 62.) She also informed her doctors about medication side effects of ...


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