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McMahon v. Astrue

December 2, 2009

ROBERT MCMAHON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT,



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stephen J. Hillman United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM DECISION

I. PROCEEDINGS

Plaintiff filed a Complaint on August 8, 2008, seeking review of the decision by the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") benefits. On August 25, 2008, both parties consented to proceed before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge, after which Defendant filed an Answer on December 12, 2008. The matter has been taken under submission.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff applied for SSI on October 5, 2002, asserting a disability onset date of October 16, 2001 due to chronic back pain, gout, depression, and other possible mental illness. (A.R. 13, 65, 72). The Social Security Administration (SSA) denied his claim on March 26, 2006. (A.R. 50). Plaintiff filed for reconsideration and was denied on December 13, 2006. (A.R. 57). Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a request for hearing by an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). (A.R. 19).

Following the hearing on October 25, 2007, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not and had not been disabled during the period alleged through the date of the decision. (A.R. 8, 17-18). The ALJ determined that Plaintiff suffered from lumbosacral sprain/strain with degenerative disc disease, disc bulging, and lower extremity radiculopathy, gout and obesity which more than minimally restricts his ability to perform work related activities. (A.R. 13). However, the ALJ found that the Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments. (A.R. 14). Furthermore, the ALJ found that: (1) Plaintiff has a residual functional capacity to do light work; (2) Plaintiff is unable to perform past relevant work; and (3) that considering Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the Plaintiff can perform. (A.R. 14-18).

Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ decision from the Appeals Council, which was denied on June 25, 2008. (A.R. 3). This action followed.

III. CONTENTIONS OF THE PARTIES

Plaintiff contends that: (1) the ALJ failed to properly consider findings from the state agency physician regarding Plaintiff's severe mental impairments and multiple moderate limitations that resulted from these impairments; (2) the ALJ failed to properly consider an examiner's opinion regarding Plaintiff bipolar disorder and GAF score of 45; (3) the ALJ improperly determined the Plaintiff's residual functional capacity; and (4) the ALJ failed to pose a complete hypothetical to the vocational expert.

Defendant asserts that the ALJ reasonably gave weight to the report of a consultative examiner who assessed "no evidence of any disorder" and no functional limitations, rather than the state agency physician's findings of moderate limitations. Additionally, the Defendant contends that a GAF score is not a reliable indicator of impairment. Also, the Defendant argues that Plaintiff suffered only from nonsevere mental impairments, which were properly considered in ALJ's determination of Plaintiff's residual functional capacity, and that Plaintiff's exertional level was properly determined using Medical-Vocational Guidelines.

For the reasons discussed below, the Court finds that the Plaintiff's first two claims of error have merit. Since the matter is remanded for further proceedings based on Plaintiff's first two claims of error, the Court will not address Plaintiff's third and fourth claims.

IV. DISCUSSION

Under 42 U.S.C. ยง405(g), this court reviews the ALJ's ...


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