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Rocha v. Astrue

March 5, 2010

RAFAEL A. ROCHA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John E. Mcdermott United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER REVERSING DECISION OF COMMISSIONER AND REMANDING FOR FURTHER PROCEEDINGS

PROCEEDINGS

On February 6, 2009, Rafael A. Rocha ("Plaintiff or Claimant") filed a complaint seeking review of the decision by the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying plaintiff's application for Disability Insurance benefits. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), both parties filed consents to proceed before this Magistrate Judge. On November 25, 2009, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS"). The matter is now ready for decision.

After reviewing the pleadings, transcripts and administrative record ("AR"), the Court concludes that the Commissioner's decision should be reversed and remanded for further proceedings in accordance with law and with this Memorandum and Order.

BACKGROUND

On September 26, 2003, Plaintiff Rafael Rocha filed an application for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. (AR 69-71.) He is a 63 year old male who was determined to have the severe medical impairments of cervical and lumbar spine degenerative disc disease and right shoulder impingement syndrome (status post-arthroscopic surgery). (AR 340.) He alleges an onset date of August 12, 2003, when he suffered an injury from a fall at work. (AR 337.) He has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 12, 2003. (AR 340.)

Plaintiff's claim was denied initially by the Social Security Administration ("SSA") on February 20, 2004, and on reconsideration on May 21, 2004. (AR 337.) Plaintiff then requested a hearing which was held on February 7, 2005, in Los Angeles, California, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Sally C. Reason. (AR 337.) An unfavorable decision was issued on April 22, 2005. (AR 337.)

The Claimant filed a Request for Review on June 20, 2005, which was denied by the Appeals Council on August 12, 2005. (AR 337.)

The Claimant then filed a civil action in the United States District Court for the Central District of California. (AR 337.) United States Magistrate Judge Jennifer Lum reversed the ALJ's decision because the ALJ ignored evidence that might establish that Plaintiff had a severe mental impairment and directed further development on this point. (AR 337.)

On remand, a second hearing was held on September 3, 2008, before ALJ Reason. (JS 2.) A second unfavorable decision was issued on October 6, 2008. (JS 2, AR 358-68.) Plaintiff then instituted this action.

DISPUTED ISSUES

As reflected in the Joint Stipulation, the disputed issues that Plaintiff is raising as grounds for reversal and remand are as follows:

1. Whether the ALJ erred by rejecting the opinions and assessments of Dr. Broukhim and Dr. Mok, the Plaintiff's treating physicians?

2. Whether the ALJ erred in failing to consider the combined impact of the Plaintiff's impairments in determining the Residential Functional Capacity ...


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