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Alcala v. Astrue

March 17, 2010

SUSAN ALCALA, 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 October 21, 2008, Susan Alcala ("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 ("SSDI") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") benefits. The Commissioner filed an Answer on February 27, 2009. On September 4, 2009, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS"). The matter is now ready for decision.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), both parties consented to proceed before this Magistrate Judge. 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 Opinion and Order.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Susan Alcala is a 37 year old woman who has the medically determinable severe impairments of asthma and affective disorder NOS with bipolar features. (AR 10.) She alleges an onset date of January 13, 2005. (AR 8.) She has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since that date. (AR 10.)

On January 20, 2006, Plaintiff filed an application for SSDI and SSI benefits. (JS 2.) Plaintiff's claims were denied initially on October 13, 2006, and on reconsideration on October 13, 2006. (AR 95.) She filed a timely request for hearing on November 17, 2006. (AR 95.) She appeared and testified at a hearing held before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Helen E. Hesse on November 27, 2007, in Orange, California. (AR 95-105.)

An unfavorable decision issued on January 25, 2008. (AR 95-105.) On February 21, 2008, the Appeals Council remanded the case to the ALJ. (AR 106-109.) The Claimant appeared and testified at a second hearing on May 12, 2008, in Orange, California, before ALJ Hesse. (AR 8.)

The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on July 21, 2008. (AR 8-18.) The ALJ determined that Plaintiff has severe physical or mental impairments but that those impairments do not meet or equal a listed impairment and she can perform light work, including her past relevant work, and thus has not been disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act since the application date. (AR 10, 11, 16, 17.)

Plaintiff requested review of the decision on August 6, 2008. (JS 2.) The Appeals Council denied review of the decision on August 21, 2008. (AR 1-3.)

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 properly considered the lay witness statements?

2. Whether the ALJ made proper credibility findings?

3. Whether the ALJ properly considered the treating sources' opinions regarding Plaintiff's functional status?

4. Whether the ALJ considered the treating clinician's opinion regarding ...


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