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Iniguez v. Astrue

August 4, 2010

DELFINO OCHOA INIGUEZ, 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 IMMEDIATE PAYMENT OF BENEFITS PROCEEDINGS

On March 23, 2009, Delfino Ochoa Iniguez ("Plaintiff" or "Claimant" or "Iniguez") filed a complaint seeking review of the decision by the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying Plaintiff's application for both Social Security disability insurance benefits and Supplemental Social Security income. The Commissioner filed an Answer on July 15, 2009. On November 10, 2009, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS").

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), both parties consented to proceed before the Magistrate Judge. The matter is now ready for decision. After reviewing the pleadings, transcripts, and administrative record ("AR"), the Court concludes that the Commissioner's decision should be reversed and remanded for an immediate award of benefits.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is a 60 year old male who has the severe impairments of degenerative disk disease of the lumbar spine and facet arthropathy, cervical disk disease of the cervical spine, hypertension, plantar fasciitic with spurs, carpal tunnel syndrome, and obesity. (AR 31-32, 34.) Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since October 15, 2002, the alleged onset date. (AR 31.)

Plaintiff's claims were denied initially on October 21, 2005, and on reconsideration on April 10, 2006. (AR 29.) Claimant filed a timely request for hearing, which was held before Administrative Law Judge Joel B. Martinez on August 17, 2007, in Pasadena, California. (AR 29-38.) Claimant appeared and was represented by counsel. (AR 29.) Vocational expert Elizabeth G. Ramos-Brown also appeared and testified.

The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on September 24, 2007. The ALJ determined that, because of his severe impairments, Plaintiff could not perform his past relevant work as a welder. (AR 36.) He also determined that Plaintiff was "not able to communicate in English." (AR 36.) Nonetheless, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity*fn1 ("RFC") to perform a limited range of medium work (AR 32) and thus was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. (AR 38.) In making this determination, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was "not entirely credible." (AR 34.)

DISPUTED ISSUES

As reflected in the Joint Stipulation, the disputed issues that Plaintiff is raising as grounds for reversal are as follows:

1. Whether the ALJ rejected Mr. Iniguez's pain testimony for legally sufficient reasons.

2. Whether the ALJ provided legally sufficient reasons for rejecting the opinion of the treating physician.

3. Whether the vocational testimony can be relied upon to support a denial of benefits.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the ALJ's decision to determine whether the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence and whether the proper legal standards were applied. DeLorme v. Sullivan, 924 F.2d 841, 846 (9th Cir. 1991). Substantial evidence means "'more than a mere scintilla' but less than a preponderance." Saelee v. Chater, 94 F.3d 520, 521-22 (9th Cir. 1996) (quoting Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)).

Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401 (internal quotations and citations omitted). This Court must review the record as a whole and consider adverse as well as supporting evidence. Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006). Where evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the ALJ's decision must be upheld. Morgan v. Comm'r, 169 F.3d 595, 599 (9th Cir. 1999). "However, a reviewing court must consider the entire record as a whole and may not affirm simply by isolating a 'specific quantum of ...


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