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Glen Rodriguez v. Michael J. Astrue

February 2, 2011

GLEN RODRIGUEZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: VICTOR B. Kenton United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER (Social Security Case)

This matter is before the Court for review of the decision by the Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff's application for disability benefits. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(c), the parties have consented that the case may be handled by the Magistrate Judge. The action arises under 42 U.S.C. §405(g), which authorizes the Court to enter judgment upon the pleadings and transcript of the Administrative Record ("AR") before the Commissioner. The parties have filed the Joint Stipulation ("JS"), and the Commissioner has filed the certified AR.

Plaintiff raises the following issues:

1. Whether the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") failed to consider the treating psychiatrist's evaluation;

2. Whether the ALJ properly considered the lay witness's statements;

3. Whether the ALJ made proper credibility findings; and 4. Whether the ALJ posed a complete hypothetical question to the Vocational Expert.

(JS at 2-3.)

This Memorandum Opinion will constitute the Court's findings of fact and conclusions of law. After reviewing the matter, the Court concludes that for the reasons set forth, the decision of the Commissioner must be reversed.

I THE ALJ FAILED TO PROPERLY EVALUATE PLAINTIFF'S MENTAL IMPAIRMENT AND ITS EFFECT ON HIS CAPACITY TO WORK

Plaintiff protectively filed an application for SSDI benefits on April 22, 2005, which was denied from the administrative level through a hearing before the ALJ, resulting in an unfavorable decision issued on May 2, 2008. (AR 12-19.) Plaintiff alleged an onset date of disability of June 1, 2003 due to schizophrenia and short-term memory loss. Plaintiff's date last insured for Title II disability benefits was June 30, 2004. (AR 45, 70, 76, 83.) The A L J determined that Plaintiff was not disabled from June 1, 2003 through June 30, 2004. (AR 19.)

The ALJ, who found that Plaintiff suffers from schizophrenia and psychotic disorder (AR 14), appears to have largely relied upon a psychological evaluation conducted on April 2, 2008 at the request of the Department of Social Services (AR 273-77), to find that despite the existence of an obviously serious mental illness, Plaintiff is not disabled from working. For the reasons to be set forth, the Court determines that this decision was erroneous.

Plaintiff was involuntarily hospitalized on July 17, 2003. It bears quoting from a portion of the psychiatric evaluation completed by Dr. Sekhon at the time of Plaintiff's admission:

"ONSET OF ILLNESS AND CIRCUMSTANCES LEADING TO ADMISSION:

This 19-year-old American-Hispanic male brought by the family member to the psychiatric triage because of increased disorganized behavior, talking to self, yelling and screaming, not sleeping, wandering aimlessly, and responding to voices. He was talking about killing himself and others, people are after him. They are afraid of his behavior. He refused to take the medication. In the psychiatric triage, patient was anxious, nervous, easily distracted, and made bizarre gestures, admitted to back spasms, pulling his neck to one side stating that he is having a spasm, then able to hold it. Patient was medically cleared, he was placed on 5150 as a danger to self and gravely disabled. He ...


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