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Montgomery v. Astrue

March 12, 2010

ERIC MONTGOMERY, 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 issues:

1. Whether the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") properly considered all of the relevant medical evidence of record;

2. Whether the ALJ properly considered Plaintiff's subjective complaints and properly assessed Plaintiff's credibility; and

3. Whether the ALJ posed a complete hypothetical to the vocational expert and properly considered the vocational evidence of record.

(JS at 3-4.)

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 DID NOT PROVIDE LEGALLY SUFFICIENT REASONS TO REJECT THE OPINION OF PLAINTIFF'S TREATING ORTHOPEDIST, DR. AHMED, BUT DID PROVIDE SUFFICIENT REASONS TO REJECT THE OPINION OF HIS TREATING PSYCHIATRIST, DR. CURTIS

In Plaintiff's first issue, he questions whether the ALJ properly considered all of the relevant medical evidence of record. (JS at 4.) Effectively, this issue can be divided into two sub-parts: whether the ALJ properly considered the opinion of Plaintiff's treating orthopedist, Dr. Ahmed, and, second, whether the ALJ properly considered the opinion of his treating psychiatrist, Dr. Curtis. The Court finds error with regard to the ALJ's decision as to the first sub-part, but not the second.

A. The ALJ's Decision

On April 16, 2005, Plaintiff suffered a serious industrial injury to his left hand when a forklift crushed it. (See AR at 26-28; 410-411.) He began treating on April 29, 2005 with Dr. Ahmed, an orthopedic surgeon, whose reports substantially populate the Administrative Record in this case. (See AR at 410-444; 303-307; 473-502.) The last report by Dr. Ahmed is dated July 25, 2007. (AR 303-307.)

The ALJ found Plaintiff suffers from the following severe impairments: history of crush injury to left hand, status post open reduction and internal fixation and subsequent hardware removal, history of bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, status post left carpal tunnel release, mild neck and back degeneration, and a history of left shoulder impingement. (AR 11.)

After considering the evidence, the ALJ found the following to be Plaintiff's residual functional capacity ("RFC"): "Plaintiff has the ability to perform light work, except he can occasionally climb ramps or stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. He is precluded from climbing ladders, ropes and scaffolds. He can perform occasional fine and gross manipulations ...


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