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Ford v. Astrue

February 22, 2010

LEROY FORD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles F. Eick United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. section 405(g), IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration is reversed and the matter is remanded for immediate payment of benefits.

PROCEEDINGS

Plaintiff filed a Complaint on August 7, 2009, seeking review of the Commissioner's denial of benefits. The parties filed a consent to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge on September 1, 2009.

Plaintiff filed a "Motion for Summary Judgment on January 14, 2010. Defendant filed a "Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Defendant's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment and in Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment" on February 16, 2010. The Court has taken both motions under submission without oral argument. See L.R. 7-15; "Order," filed August 11, 2009.

BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

In 2000, Plaintiff suffered from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in the area of his left eye (Administrative Record ("A.R.") 9, 20). "In August 2000, [Plaintiff] underwent left frontotemporal craniotomy, left orbital osteotomy, subtotal resection of intraorbital and cavernous sinus tumor, decompression of the left optic nerve and internal carotid artery, decompression of the left third nerve, correction of exophthalmos, and Hemovac drain" (A.R. 20). At the time of this operation, Plaintiff was in prison. Id. Plaintiff then underwent chemotherapy, radiation, and, eventually, another surgery during which his left eye was removed (A.R. 9, 186).

After release from prison, Plaintiff applied for disability benefits beginning May 15, 2003 (A.R. 62-64). In 2003, Plaintiff signed a written statement reporting headache pain and other limiting symptoms of allegedly disabling frequency and severity (A.R. 86-91). Plaintiff similarly testified in 2005 to pain and other symptomatology of allegedly disabling severity (A.R. 186-97). In 2003, Plaintiff's wife signed a written "Function Report" containing statements potentially corroborative of Plaintiff's complaints (A.R. 92-99).

Plaintiff suffered a recurrence of lymphoma no later than June, 2005 (A.R. 9). The Administration found Plaintiff disabled beginning June 1, 2005, but also found Plaintiff not disabled between May 15, 2003 and May 31, 2005 (A.R. 8-10, 201-04, 210-16). In the process of denying benefits for the period prior to June 1, 2005, the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") found Plaintiff's testimony and his wife's written statements not to be credible (A.R. 21, 213-15).

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. section 405(g), this Court reviews the Administration's decision to determine if: (1) the Administration's findings are supported by substantial evidence; and (2) the Administration used correct legal standards. See Carmickle v. Commissioner, 533 F.3d 1155, 1159 (9th Cir. 2008); Hoopai v. Astrue, 499 F.3d 1071, 1074 (9th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (citation and quotations omitted); see Widmark v. Barnhart, 454 F.3d 1063, 1067 (9th Cir. 2006).

DISCUSSION

The Administration committed multiple errors in evaluating the credibility of Plaintiff and Plaintiff's wife. Under the particular circumstances of this case, reversal and remand with a directive for the immediate payment of benefits is appropriate.

The ALJ found that Plaintiff's "medically determinable impairments could reasonably be expected to produce the alleged symptoms, but that [Plaintiff's] statements concerning the intensity, persistence and limiting effects of these symptoms are not entirely credible" (A.R. 214). To support such a credibility determination, an ALJ must make "specific, cogent" findings, supported in the record. Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 834 (9th Cir. 1996); see Rashad v. Sullivan, 903 F.2d 1229, ...


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