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Zueger v. Astrue

October 12, 2010

ROBERT ZUEGER, 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 THE COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY AND REMANDING FOR FURTHER PROCEEDINGS PROCEEDINGS

On December 22, 2009, Robert Zueger ("Plaintiff" or "Claimant") filed a complaint seeking review of the decision by the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying Plaintiff's application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") benefits. The Commissioner filed an Answer on June 22, 2010. On August 31, 2010, 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 the Magistrate Judge. After reviewing the pleadings, transcripts, and administrative record ("AR"), the Court concludes that the Commissioner's decision should be reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings in accordance with law and with this Memorandum Opinion and Order.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was 52 years old when he filed his application for SSI benefits on May 21, 2007. (AR 8, 99.) He was found to have the medically determinable severe impairments of schizoaffective disorder, personality disorder, anxiety disorder, and a history of methamphetamine abuse. (AR 10.) Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the application date. (Id.)

Plaintiff's claim was denied initially and on reconsideration. (AR 45-51, 54-58.) He filed a timely request for hearing (AR 60), which was held before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Jay E. Levine on May 21, 2009, in San Bernardino, California. (AR 15-44.) Claimant appeared and testified. (AR 18-26, 36-42.) Medical expert Dr. Joseph Malancharuvil and vocational expert ("VE") Troy Scott also appeared and testified. (AR 26-36, 42-43.)

The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on August 19, 2009. (AR 8-14.) The ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity ("RFC")*fn1 "to perform the full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following non-exertional limitations: no work at unprotected heights or around dangerous unguarded moving machinery and mentally, work which is routine, repetitive, entry level, object oriented and not involving production quotas such as conveyor belt or piece work." (AR 11.) Based on the testimony of the VE, the ALJ also found that Plaintiff can perform his past relevant work as a maintenance worker and can perform other jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy. (AR 13.)

Plaintiff filed a timely Request for Review of Hearing Decision. (AR 4.) The Appeals Council denied review on November 9, 2009. (AR 5-7.) Thereafter, Plaintiff commenced the present action.

DISPUTED ISSUES

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

1. Whether the ALJ properly evaluated Plaintiff's ability to perform past work as a maintenance worker.

2. Whether the ALJ properly considered the lay witness's statement.

3. Whether the ALJ properly considered the consultative examiner's opinion.

4. Whether the ALJ properly evaluated Plaintiff's residual ...


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