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Hendricks v. Astrue

June 8, 2010

JAMES HENDRICKS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gregory G. Hollows U.S. Magistrate Judge

ORDER

Plaintiff seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying his application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act ("Act"). For the reasons that follow, plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and/or Remand is granted in part, and the Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment is denied. The Clerk is directed to enter judgment for plaintiff. This case is remanded for further findings pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. §405(g).

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, born April 22, 1947, applied for disability benefits on April 12, 2001. (Tr. at 70.) Plaintiff alleged he was unable to work since January 7, 2001, due to late effects of cerebrovascular disease and essential hypertension. (Tr. at 70, 26.) Plaintiff was granted benefits on his application and received them from 2001 to February 21, 2006, when he was notified that he was no longer eligible due to substantial work starting in 2002. (Tr. at 29-32.) After the decision was affirmed on reconsideration, plaintiff received a hearing. In a decision dated December 23, 2008, ALJ Marilyn S. Mauer determined that plaintiff's earnings after completing a trial work period exceeded the amount required for substantial gainful activity and that he was no longer entitled to benefit payments as of July 2002.*fn1 The ALJ made the following findings:

1. Mr. Hendricks was found disabled as of January 7, 2001, and was thereby entitled to disability insurance benefits as of that date.

2. Mr. Hendricks completed a trial work period in March 2002.

3. Mr. Hendricks' earnings after completing his trial work period exceeded the amount demonstrating substantial gainful activity.

4. Mr. Hendricks' earnings reasonably represent the value of the work he performed.

(Tr. at 15-18.)

ISSUES PRESENTED

Plaintiff has raised the following issues: A. Whether the ALJ Failed to Properly Apply the "Substantial Gainful Activity" Standard Prior to Summarily Concluding that the Claimant was Performing Unsubsidized "Substantial Gainful Activity;" and B. Whether the ALJ Improperly Rejected Lay Witness Testimony.

LEGAL STANDARDS

The court reviews the Commissioner's decision to determine whether (1) it is based on proper legal standards pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), and (2) substantial evidence in the record as a whole supports it. Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1097 (9th Cir. 1999). Substantial evidence is more than a mere scintilla, but less than a preponderance. Connett v. Barnhart, 340 F.3d 871, 873 (9th Cir. 2003) (citation omitted). It means "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007), quoting Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005). "The ALJ is responsible for determining credibility, resolving conflicts in medical testimony, and resolving ambiguities." Edlund v. Massanari, 253 F.3d 1152, 1156 (9th Cir. ...


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