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Larry Clemons v. Michael J. Astrue

December 14, 2010

LARRY CLEMONS, 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 November 10, 2009, Larry Clemons ("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 Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") benefits. The Commissioner filed an Answer on May 26, 2010. On July 6, 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 is a 66 year old male who was found to have the medically determinable severe impairments of low back pain, cervical spine pain, and Vicodin addiction. (AR 20.) On April 28, 2008, Plaintiff filed an application for SSI alleging disability beginning May 20, 2006. (AR 18.)

Plaintiff's claim for SSI benefits was denied initially on July 24, 2008. (AR 18.) Plaintiff filed a written request for hearing (AR 18), which was held before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") David Agatstein on June 30, 2009, in Los Angeles, California. (AR 18-28.) Claimant appeared and testified without representation. (AR 18.) Medical expert David Peterson and vocational expert Sandra Schneider also appeared and testified. (AR 18.) Medical expert Arthur Brovender testified via telephone. (AR 18.)

The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on July 10, 2009. (AR 18-28.) The Appeals Council denied review on September 29, 2009. (AR 1-3.)

DISPUTED ISSUES

As reflected in the Joint Stipulation, the only disputed issue that Plaintiff raises as a ground for reversal is as follows:

1. Whether the ALJ properly considered Dr. Siebold's AME opinion.

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 citation 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 supporting evidence.'" Robbins, 466 F.3d at 882 (quoting Hammock v. Bowen, 8 ...


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