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Zenner v. Astrue

April 26, 2010

DAWN ZENNER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Barry Ted Moskowitz United States District Judge

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DENYING FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT DEFENDANT'S CROSS-MOTION

Plaintiff has filed a motion for summary judgment. Defendant has filed a cross-motion for summary judgment. For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is GRANTED and Defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment is DENIED.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On March 10, 2006, Plaintiff filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits, alleging disability since April 25, 2005. Plaintiff's application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. The hearing was held on July 29, 2008, before Administrative Law Judge Eve B. Godfrey ("ALJ"). On September 29, 2008, the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's application for benefits. Plaintiff filed a request for review with the Appeals Council, which was denied. Plaintiff seeks judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

II. ALJ'S FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS

The ALJ found that Plaintiff meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2010, and has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 25, 2005, the alleged onset date.

The ALJ found that Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: affective disorder, mild tendonitis of the right shoulder, and mild cervical degenerative disc disease. The ALJ also found that Plaintiff's impairment or combination of impairments do not meet or equal any of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.

The ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to perform light work, as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b), except that she is limited to nonpublic, simple, unskilled work that requires little contact with others, allows her to change position every thirty minutes and miss ten days of work a year. Based on the VE's testimony, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff would be able to perform the requirements of representative occupations such as "Production Helper" (DOT 530.384-010) "Order Filler" (DOT 209.587-034) and "Inspector" (DOT 716.687-030).*fn1

III. STANDARD

The Commissioner's denial of benefits may be set aside if it is based on legal error or is not supported by substantial evidence. Jamerson v. Chater, 112 F.3d 1064, 1066 (9th Cir. 1997). Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla but less than a preponderance. Id. Substantial evidence is "relevant evidence which, considering the record as a whole, a reasonable person might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Flatten v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 44 F.3d 1453, 1457 (9th Cir. 1995).

IV. DISCUSSION

Plaintiff contends that the ALJ's decision should be set aside because the ALJ erred in not giving controlling weight to the opinion of James E. Adams, M.D., Plaintiff's treating psychiatrist. As discussed below, although Dr. Adams's opinion was not automatically entitled to controlling weight, the ALJ failed to provide legitimate reasons for rejecting his opinion.

A. Dr. Adams's Treatment of Plaintiff

Dr. Adams saw Plaintiff on four occasions between 11/4/05 and 12/15/05. Plaintiff's complaints included anxiety, depression, irritability, social anxiety, and loss of sleep. (AR 328-343.) Dr. Adams' initial diagnosis was 296.80 (Bipolar II) and 300.02 (generalized anxiety disorder). (AR 408.) Dr. Adams assigned a GAF score of 50. (Id.) With respect to Plaintiff's mental status, on a check-list form, Dr. Adams indicated that Plaintiff's mood was depressed, anxious, and tearful, and that her affect was blunted. (AR 341.) Dr. Adams indicated that Plaintiff's thought process was organized/goal directed, her ...


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