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George Wayne anderson v. Commissioner of Social Security

March 15, 2011

GEORGE WAYNE ANDERSON,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Craig M. Kellison United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, who is proceeding with retained counsel, brings this action for judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Pursuant to the written consent of all parties, this case is before the undersigned as the presiding judge for all purposes, including entry of final judgment. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Pending before the court are plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 17) and defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment (Doc. 19). For the reasons discussed below, the court will grant plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and remand this matter for either payment of benefits or further proceedings.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY*fn1

Plaintiff applied for social security benefits on May 25, 2006, alleging an onset of disability on September 8, 2002, due to physical impairments. (Certified administrative record ("CAR") 43, 67-74, 77-87.) Specifically, plaintiff claims disability based on impairments of the back, knee injury, arthritis, headaches, and bilateral carpal tunnel. (CAR 78). Plaintiff's claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing, which was held on October 23, 2007, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Sandra K. Rogers. In a February 20, 2008, decision, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff is not disabled*fn2 based

on the following findings:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act though September 30, 2007.

2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since September 8, 2002, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1520(b) and 404.1571 et seq.).

3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: back, knee and bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome impairments. (20 CFR 404.1520(c)).

4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525, and 404.1526).

5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as follows: able to lift 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; stand, walk or sit for 6 hours in an 8 hour day; could occasionally balance, stoop kneel, crouch, crawl and climb; cannot do any forceful gripping, grasping, torquing or twisting with either hand.

6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work. (20 CFR 404.1565).

7. The claimant was born on June 6, 1954 and was 48 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 404.1563).

8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564).

9. Transferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability because using the Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding that the claimant is "not disabled," whether or not the claimant has transferable job skills (See SSR 82-41 and 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).

10. Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform (20 CFR 404.1560(c) and 404.1566).

11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from September 8, 2002 through the date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(g)).

CAR 17-24. After the Appeals Council declined review on October 30, 2009, this appeal followed.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The court reviews the Commissioner's final decision to determine whether it is:

(1) based on proper legal standards; and (2) supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. See Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1097 (9th Cir. 1999). "Substantial evidence" is more than a mere scintilla, but less than a preponderance. See Saelee v. Chater, 94 F.3d 520, 521 (9th Cir. 1996). It is "such evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 402 (1971). The record as a whole, including both the evidence that supports and detracts from the Commissioner's conclusion, must be considered and weighed. See Howard v. Heckler, 782 F.2d 1484, 1487 (9th Cir. 1986); Jones v. Heckler, 760 F.2d 993, 995 (9th Cir. 1985). The court may not affirm the Commissioner's decision simply by isolating a specific quantum of supporting evidence. See Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989). If substantial evidence supports the administrative findings, or if there is conflicting evidence supporting a particular finding, the finding of the Commissioner is conclusive. See Sprague v. Bowen, 812 F.2d 1226, 1229-30 (9th Cir. 1987). Therefore, where the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, one of which supports the Commissioner's decision, the decision must be affirmed, see Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002), and may be set aside only if an improper legal standard was applied in weighing the evidence, see Burkhart v. Bowen, 856 F.2d 1335, 1338 (9th Cir. 1988).

III. DISCUSSION

Plaintiff argues the ALJ erred in four ways: (1) the ALJ erred in her treatment of the medical opinions; (2) the ALJ improperly discounted plaintiff's credibility; (4) the ALJ's residual functional capacity assessment was erroneous; and (4) the ALJ improperly rejected the ...


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