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Kathleen A. Sifferman v. Michael J. Astrue

January 6, 2011

KATHLEEN A. SIFFERMAN, 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 September 14, 2009, Kathleen A. Sifferman ("Plaintiff" or "Claimant") filed a Complaint seeking review of the decision by the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner") denying Plaintiff's application for disability benefits under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. On March 22, 2010, the Commissioner filed an Answer to the Complaint. On July 22, 2010, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS") setting forth their positions and the issues in dispute.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), both parties consented to proceed before the undersigned 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 was born on May 12, 1968 (AR 123), and was 33 years old on her alleged disability onset date of April 30, 2002. Plaintiff filed applications for Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance benefits with a protected filing date of July 19, 2005. (AR 76, 123-30.) Plaintiff claims she is disabled due to anxiety, depression, and a sleeping disorder. (AR 148.) Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 30, 2002. (AR 12, 148-49.)

Plaintiff's claim was denied initially on June 7, 2006 (AR 88-92), and on reconsideration on January 12, 2007. (AR 94-98.) Plaintiff filed a timely request for hearing on February 15, 2007. (AR 101.) Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified at a hearing held on January 25, 2008, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") F. Keith Varni. (AR 41-56.) The ALJ issued an undated decision denying benefits (the "Prior Decision"). (AR 76-84.) On March 18, 2008, Plaintiff filed a timely request for review of the ALJ's decision. (AR 116-18.) On June 20, 2008, the Appeals Council vacated the ALJ's decision and remanded for further proceedings. (AR 85-87.)

The ALJ held a second hearing on March 11, 2009 (AR 57-69), and issued an unfavorable decision on May 22, 2009. (AR 10-18.) The ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the severe impairments of monocular vision, inappropriate somnolence, and a mood disorder, but was capable of performing jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy. (AR 12, 17.) Thus, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act since the date her applications were filed. (AR 18.)

Plaintiff commenced the instant action after the Appeals Council denied her request for review on July 16, 2009. (AR 2-4.)

DISPUTED ISSUES

As reflected in the Joint Stipulation, there are two disputed issues:

1. Whether the ALJ properly considered the opinion of treating physician Dr. Jesus Bucardo; and

2. Whether the ALJ properly considered Plaintiff's testimony. (JS at 4.)

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 ...


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