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Gustafson v. Astrue

March 31, 2010

SHAWN GUSTAFSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



ORDER

This social security action was submitted to the court, without oral argument, for ruling on plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment. For the reasons explained below, plaintiff's motion is granted, the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner) is reversed, and the matter is remanded with the direction to award benefits.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On March 25, 2005, plaintiff applied for Supplemental Security Income Disability benefits (SSI) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (Act), alleging disability due to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning disabilities, and mental problems, with an onset date of June 28, 2004. (Transcript (Tr.) at 50, 62.) The application was denied initially on August 12, 2005, and upon reconsideration on November 2, 2005. (Tr. at 38, 45-49; 37, 39- 44.) A hearing was held before an administrative law judge (ALJ) on January 24, 2007. (Tr. at 35, 298-315.) Plaintiff was unable to appear at the hearing because he was incarcerated, but plaintiff's attorney represented him at the hearing, and plaintiff's wife testified. (Tr. at 298-302.) On March 21, 2007, the ALJ held a supplemental hearing. (Tr. at 316-22.) Although plaintiff was again unable to appear due to his incarceration, plaintiff's counsel represented him at the supplemental hearing and submitted additional medical evidence. In a decision issued on June 22, 2007, the ALJ determined that plaintiff had not been under a disability since March 25, 2005. (Tr. at 12-22.) The ALJ entered the following findings:

1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since June 28, 2004, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 416.920(b) and 416.971 et seq.).

2. The claimant has the following severe impairments: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a mood disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, a learning disorder and borderline intellectual functioning (20 CFR § 416.920(c)).

3. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).

4. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to understand, remember and carry out simple one or two-step instructions. The claimant also has the ability to relate and interact with others with limited co-worker and public contact and he can adapt to stresses common to a normal work environment. The claimant also can maintain concentration, attention, persistence and pace and he can maintain regular attendance. In other words, the claimant retains the ability to perform simple, unskilled work.

5. The claimant has no past relevant work (20 CFR 416.965).

6. The claimant was born on April 1, 1983 and was 22 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-44, on the date the application was filed (20 CFR 416.963).

7. The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 416.964).

8. Transferability of job skills is not an issue because the claimant does not have past relevant work (20 CFR 416.968).

9. Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform (20 CFR 416.960(c) and 416.966).

10. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, since March 25, 2005, the date the application was filed (20 CFR 416.920(g)).

(Tr. at 21.)

On January 19, 2008, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision. (Tr. at 4-7.) Plaintiff sought judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) by filing the complaint in this action on March 18, 2008.

LEGAL STANDARD

The Commissioner's decision will be upheld if the findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence and proper legal standards were applied. Schneider v. Comm'r of the Soc. Sec. Admin., 223 F.3d 968, 973 (9th Cir. 2000); Morgan v. Comm'r of the Soc. Sec. Admin., 169 F.3d 595, 599 (9th Cir. 1999). The findings of the Commissioner as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, are conclusive. See Miller v. Heckler, 770 F.2d 845, 847 (9th Cir. 1985). Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a ...


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