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Urquidi v. Astrue

February 10, 2010

FRANK URQUIDI, 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") erred in determining Plaintiff's credibility; (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.

DISCUSSION

I. THE ALJ ERRED IN DETERMINING PLAINTIFF'S CREDIBILITY

In his decision, the ALJ made the following pertinent findings concerning Plaintiff's credibility:

"As introduced above, and even appreciating that [Plaintiff] has some problems with memory, [Plaintiff] was not fully candid about his employment history. This reflects adversely on his overall credibility. Regardless of whether the work qualifies as SGA [substantial gainful activity], in testifying, [Plaintiff] did not acknowledge working in 2006. More clearly, he minimized or overlooked significant post 1992 employment, including one year stocking/receiving for a dental supply company ending 1999. (Exhibit citation omitted.) Moreover, the SSA records reflect entries in excess of $3,000 for 1995, 1996 and for 1998, and a lesser amount for 1997; yet per [Plaintiff's] testimony, he did not work in any of these years. (Exhibit citation omitted.) Similarly, [Plaintiff's] presenting statements in April 2006 at a Kaiser Permanents Department of Psychiatry that he had not worked since his son died were clearly inaccurate." (Exhibit citation omitted.) (AR 14-15.)

Earlier in the decision, in analyzing whether, at Step One of the sequential evaluation process, Plaintiff has engaged in substantial gainful activity, the ALJ observed that,

"The analysis is made difficult by [Plaintiff's] contradictory statements. First, it is clear ... that [Plaintiff's] vocationally related testimony is inaccurate." (AR 13.)

A. Evidence as to Plaintiff's Job History

At the hearing (AR 40-103), Plaintiff appeared, and was represented by counsel (the same counsel who presently represents him in this litigation). The ALJ's first questions concerned Plaintiff's educational history; he was unable to answer basic questions about how many grades he finished, where he went to school, and the like. (AR 47-48.) Then, the ALJ asked four questions at once:

"Did you learn how to do anything? Did anybody teach you how to do anything? Or did you just walk in and start doing the work and never get any instructions on anything? What ...


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