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Rene Haro v. Michael J. Astrue

January 31, 2011

RENE HARO, 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 February 22, 2010, Rene Haro ("Plaintiff" or "Claimant") filed a Complaint seeking review of the decision by the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner") denying his application for disability benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act. On August 23, 2010, the Commissioner filed an Answer to the Complaint. On October 26, 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. After reviewing the pleadings, transcripts, and administrative record ("AR"), the Court concludes that the Commissioner's decision shouldbe reversed and remanded for further proceedings in accordance with law and with this Memorandum Opinion and Order.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was born on November 16, 1957, and was 46 years old on his alleged disability onset date of March 11, 2004. (AR 56.) Plaintiff filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits on March 9, 2006 (AR 56-60), and claims he is disabled due to a hand and shoulder injury. (AR 95.) Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 11, 2004. (AR 15, 95.)

Plaintiff's claim was denied initially on August 2, 2006 (AR 44-49), and on reconsideration on March 15, 2007. (AR 38-42.) Plaintiff filed a timely request for hearing on May 10, 2007. (AR 36.) Plaintiff appeared without counsel and testified at a hearing held on September 10, 2007, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") John C. Tobin. (AR 497-534.) The ALJ issued a decision denying benefits on September 26, 2007. (AR 13-23.) On November 9, 2007, Plaintiff filed a timely request for review of the ALJ's decision. (AR 8.) The Appeals council denied review on November 12, 2009. (AR 5-7.) Plaintiff then commenced the present action.

DISPUTED ISSUES

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

1. Whether the ALJ properly considered the opinion of a treating physician, Dr. Thelma Fernandez;

2. Whether the ALJ properly considered the opinion of an examining psychologist, Dr. Mark Pierce; and

3. Whether the ALJ properly considered Plaintiff's testimony and statements. (JS at 4.)

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. ยง 405(g), this Court reviews the ALJ's decision to determine whether the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence and free of legal error. Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996); see also DeLorme v. Sullivan, 924 F.2d 841, 846 (9th Cir. 1991) (ALJ's disability determination ...


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