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Harrison v. Astrue

October 21, 2010

CHEMETRA HARRISON, 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 FURTHER PROCEEDINGS

PROCEEDINGS

On October 8, 2009, Chemetra Harrison ("Plaintiff" or "Claimant") filed a complaint seeking review of the decision by the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying Plaintiff's application for Social Security disability insurance benefits. The Commissioner filed an Answer on April 15, 2010. On June 17, 2010, 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 further proceedings in accordance with law and with this Memorandum Opinion and Order.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is a 47 year old female who was determined to have the medically determinable severe impairments of back disorder and arthritis. (AR 14.) She alleges an onset date of March 16, 2007. (AR 11.) She has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since that date. (AR 14.)

Plaintiff filed an application for Title II Social Security disability benefits on June 29, 2007. (AR 11.) She alleged back pain, hip pain, knee pain, right shoulder pain, neck pain, and depression. (AR 120.) The claim was denied on October 24, 2007. (AR 11, 54.) Plaintiff filed a timely request for hearing, which was held on April 3, 2008, in Los Angeles, California, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Alexander Weir III. (AR 11.) The Claimant appeared and testified and was represented by counsel. Vocational expert Heidi Paul also appeared and testified. (AR 11.)

The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on February 19, 2009. (AR 11-19.) The ALJ determined that Plaintiff's back disorder and arthritis were severe, but that her other physical and mental impairments were not. The ALJ then concluded that, notwithstanding Plaintiff's severe and non-severe impairments, she had the residual functional capacity ("RFC")*fn1 to perform light work with some limitations, including use of a cane for prolonged ambulation, and could perform her past relevant work as a cashier and teacher's aide. (AR 17-18.) Accordingly, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not under a disability as defined in the Social Security Act. (AR 18.)

The Appeals Council denied review on August 4, 2009. (AR 1.)

DISPUTED ISSUES

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

1. Whether the ALJ properly assessed Plaintiff's credibility.

2. Whether the ALJ properly assessed Plaintiff's residual functional capacity when he omitted key objective evidence from his summary of the medical evidence of record in his decision.

3. Whether the ALJ properly assessed the lay witness testimony of Flossie Harrison, the Plaintiff's mother.

DISCUSSION

The Court reverses the ALJ's decision and remands for further proceedings. The ALJ did not properly consider Plaintiff's subjective pain symptoms, undermining the ALJ's RFC assessment and his conclusion that Plaintiff can perform her prior relevant work.

A. 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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