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Lynn Green v. Michael J. Astrue

February 25, 2011

LYNN GREEN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert N. Block United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER REVERSING DECISION OF COMMISSIONER AND REMANDING FOR FURTHER ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS

Plaintiff filed a Complaint herein on May 14, 2010, seeking review of the Commissioner's denial of her applications for disability insurance and Supplemental Security Income benefits. In accordance with the Court's Case Management Order, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("Jt Stip") on February 17, 2011. Thus, this matter now is ready for decision.*fn1

DISPUTED ISSUES

As reflected in the Joint Stipulation, the disputed issues that plaintiff is raising

The decision in this case is being made on the basis of the pleadings, the as the grounds for reversal and remand are as follows:

1. Whether the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") properly excluded plaintiff's diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder as a severe impairment apart from substance abuse.

2. Whether the ALJ afforded proper consideration to the treating sources' opinions.

3. Whether the ALJ properly considered the lay witness's statements.

4. Whether the ALJ properly determined not to obtain the testimony of a vocational expert.

5. Whether the ALJ properly considered plaintiff's residual functional capacity ("RFC").

DISCUSSION*fn2

A. The ALJ failed in his duty to develop the record with respect to the issue of whether plaintiff would suffer from a severe mental impairment in the absence of drug and alcohol use.

It appears from the ALJ's decision that his principal reason for finding that plaintiff's severe mental impairment was substance induced was the absence of any "objective" evidence in the record to support plaintiff's claim of sobriety since October 2008. (See AR 14, 17.) However, there is no "objective" evidence in the record, including in plaintiff's treatment records, that rebuts plaintiff's claim of sobriety since October 2008. Moreover, while the State Agency physician speculated in February 2009 that, with treatment and substance abstinence, plaintiff's mental

The Court's findings hereafter with respect to Disputed Issue Nos. 1-3 impairment would be non-severe by October 2009 (see AR 441), that speculation was belied by the opinions of two physicians who, based on their examinations of plaintiff in September 2009 and October 2009, opined ...


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