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Esthela Rodriguez v. Michael J. Astrue

May 25, 2011

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



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stephen J. Hillman United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

This matter is before the Court for review of the decision by the Commissioner of Social Security denying plaintiff's application for Supplemental Security Income. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties have consented that the case may be handled by the undersigned. The action arises under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), which authorizes the Court to enter judgment upon the pleadings and transcript of the record before the Commissioner. The plaintiff and the defendant have filed their pleadings (Memorandum in Support of Plaintiff's Complaint ["Plaintiff's Brief"]; Defendant's Brief with Points and Authorities ["Defendant's Brief"]), and the defendant has filed the certified transcript of record. After reviewing the matter, the Court concludes that the decision of the Commissioner should be reversed and remanded.

On March 30, 2000, plaintiff Esthela Rodriguez filed an application for Supplemental Security Income, alleged an inability to work since June 1, 1997, due to fibromyalgia and chronic arthritis. (See 1 Administrative Record ["AR"] 126-28, 139-47). On February 19, 2001 (following a hearing on December 7, 2001), an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") determined that plaintiff had the following severe impairments -- fibromyalgia, myofascial body pain syndrome, and obesity -- but found that plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. (See 1 AR 77-81).

On August 2, 2002, the Appeals Council remanded the matter to an ALJ for further proceedings. (See 1 AR 99-102).

On March 4, 2003 (following a supplemental hearing on February 18, 2003), an ALJ determined that plaintiff had the severe impairment of type II diabetes mellitus, but found that plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. (See 1 AR 11-19).*fn1

Following the Appeals Council's denial of plaintiff's request for a review of the hearing decision (see 1 AR 3-5), plaintiff filed an action in this Court (Case No. EDCV 03-1136 (SH)).

On March 31, 2003 (subsequent to the 2003 Decision, but prior to filing her federal action), plaintiff filed another application for Supplemental Security Income. On November 5, 2004 (following a supplemental hearing on October 1, 2004), an ALJ determined that plaintiff had the severe impairments of fibromyalgia and type II diabetes mellitis, but found that plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. (See 2 AR 666-74).

On November 24, 2004, this Court, finding that the ALJ erred in finding that plaintiff did not suffer from fibromyalgia and that her fibromyalgia was not severe, reversed and remanded the matter pursuant to Sentence 4 of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (See 1 AR 960, 978-87).

On May 21, 2007 (following a supplemental hearing on April 26, 2007), the ALJ issued a partially favorable decision. The ALJ found that plaintiff was disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act from March 1, 2000 through March 31, 2003. However, the ALJ determined that plaintiff had the following severe impairments --personality disorder, not otherwise specified, depressive disorder, not otherwise specified, psychophysiological reaction due to physical conditions, fibromyalgia, chronic pain syndrome, hypertension, obesity, noninsulin dependent diabetes mellitus, history of early liver disease secondary to hepatitis B virus infection, hyperlipidemia, possible borderline intellectual functioning, and gastroesophageal reflux disease -- but found that plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act after March 31, 2003. (See 2 AR 630-39).

Plaintiff then filed the present action in this Court. Based on the parties' stipulation, this Court ordered the matter remanded to locate plaintiff's claims file pursuant to sentence 6 of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (See 2 AR 624-27).

On October 18, 2010, following the parties' stipulation, the Court ordered this case reopened.

Plaintiff makes four challenges to the 2007 Decision denying disability benefits for the period after March 31, 2003. Plaintiff alleges the ALJs erred in (1) failing to make proper credibility findings, (2) failing to properly consider the consultative examiner's findings, (3) failing to provide a complete and accurate assessment of plaintiff's residual functional capacity, and (4) failing to pose a complete hypothetical to the vocational expert.

For the reasons discussed below, the Court finds that plaintiff's first claim of error has merit. Since the matter is remanded for further proceeding based on plaintiff's first claim of error, the Court will not ...


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