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Jay Williams v. Michael J. Astrue

February 22, 2011

JAY WILLIAMS, 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

On March 16, 2010, Jay Williams ("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 September 14, 2010, the Commissioner filed an Answer to the Complaint. On January 3, 2011, 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 July 31, 1946, and was 57 years old on his alleged disability onset date of February 29, 2004. (AR 75.) Plaintiff filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits on January 19, 2007 (AR 75-79), and claims he is disabled due to a right knee injury. (AR 88-89.) Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged disability onset date. (AR 13, 89.)

Plaintiff's claim was denied initially on June 1, 2007 (AR 48-51), and on reconsideration on August 24, 2007. (AR 54-58.) Plaintiff filed a timely request for hearing on August 27, 2007. (AR 59.) Plaintiff appeared without counsel and testified at a hearing held on May 15, 2008, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Robert A. Evans. (AR 22-42.) The ALJ issued a decision denying benefits on June 12, 2008. (AR 11-19.) Plaintiff filed a timely request for review of the ALJ's decision. (AR 4.) On January 22, 2010, the Appeals council denied review. (AR 1-3.) Plaintiff then commenced the present action.

DISPUTED ISSUES

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

1. Whether the ALJ properly considered the opinion of a treating physician;

2. Whether the ALJ properly assessed Plaintiff's residual functional capacity;

3. Whether the ALJ properly determined that Plaintiff's right knee impairment did not meet or equal a listed impairment; and

4. Whether the ALJ posed a complete hypothetical to the vocational expert. (JS at 3-4.)

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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