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John Joseph Guttilla v. Michael J. Astrue Commissioner of Social

December 20, 2010

JOHN JOSEPH GUTTILLA,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Michael M. Anello United States District Judge

ORDER:

(1) ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION; [Doc. No. 13]

(2) GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ORDER FOR REVERSAL; [Doc. No. 10]

(3) DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; AND

(4) REMANDING FOR PAYMENT OF BENEFITS [Doc. No. 11]

Pending before the Court is the Report and Recommendation ("R&R") of Magistrate Judge Ruben B. Brooks, filed on August 13, 2010, recommending that the Court grant Plaintiff John Joseph Guttilla's motion for reversal and/or remand, and deny Defendant's motion for summary judgment. [Doc. No. 13.] On September 3, 2010, Defendant Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, filed objections to the R&R. [Doc. No. 14.] Plaintiff did not file a reply. Having considered the parties' arguments and for the reasons stated herein, the Court finds the Magistrate Judge conducted a well-reasoned and thorough analysis, and ADOPTS the R&R.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was born on December 19, 1944, and has past relevant work experience as a gaming or cardroom supervisor, a gambling dealer, a slot cashier, a retail cashier, and a door keeper. On April 29, 2007, he filed an application for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits. He last worked on May 1, 2008, which he claims as his disability onset date.*fn1 Plaintiff initially claimed disability due to impairments from emphysema, prostate cancer, back injury and pain, and shortness of breath. On October 18, 2007, Plaintiff began treatment with psychiatrist Dr. Jeremy Flagel for symptoms of depression and panic disorder. Plaintiff continued to meet with treating physician Dr. Flagel in 2008 and 2009.

On April 7, 2009, Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Jerry Muskrat held a hearing to consider Plaintiff's application for disability benefits. At the hearing, Plaintiff withdrew his claims of disability due to his physical impairments, and submitted his disability claim based on his mental impairments, including major depression, anxiety, and panic disorder. The ALJ considered Plaintiff's medical records, Plaintiff's testimony, and testimony from Mary Jesco, an impartial vocational expert. On June 3, 2009, the ALJ issued a decision, finding that Plaintiff was not disabled under the Social Security Act. The ALJ's decision became final when the Appeals Counsel denied Plaintiff's request for review. On October 13, 2009, Plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court, and on March 19, 2010, Plaintiff filed a motion for order for reversal and/or remand to award benefits. On April 16, 2010, Defendant filed a cross motion for summary judgment. Magistrate Judge Brooks issued the present R&R on August 13, 2010, recommending that the Court grant Plaintiff's motion for reversal and/or remand, and deny Defendant's motion for summary judgment.

LEGAL STANDARDS

The Social Security Act entitles a claimant to disability benefits if he is unable to "engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i), 423(d)(1)(A). To qualify for benefits, the impairment must result from "anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities which are demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(3); Gallant v. Heckler, 753 F.2d 1450, 1452 (9th Cir. 1984). Further, the impairment must be of "such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A).

An individual may seek judicial review of the Commissioner of Social Security's final agency decision. 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3). However, the scope of review is limited. A court may not overturn the Commissioner's final action unless (1) the ALJ's findings of fact are not supported by substantial evidence, or (2) the ALJ failed to apply the proper legal standards. See Flatten v. Secretary of Health and Human Svcs., 44 F.3d 1453, 1457 (9th Cir. 1995).

"Substantial evidence" means evidence a reasonable person might accept as adequate to support the ALJ's conclusion, considering the record as a whole. See Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002). The Court must consider both the evidence that supports and detracts from the Commissioner's conclusions. See Mayes v. Massanari, 276 F.3d 453, 459 (9th Cir. 2001); Desrosiers v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 846 F.2d 573, 576 (9th Cir. 1988).

Even if substantial evidence supports the ALJ's findings, a court must set the decision aside if the ALJ failed to apply the proper legal standards in weighing the evidence and reaching a decision. See Benitez v. Califano, 573 F.2d 653, 655 (9th Cir. 1978). But if the evidence supports more than one rational interpretation, the ...


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