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Evelyn Yslas v. Michael J. Astrue

March 8, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles F. Eick United States Magistrate Judge


Pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. section 405(g), IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiff's and Defendant's motions for summary judgment are denied and this matter is remanded for further administrative action consistent with this Opinion.


Plaintiff filed a complaint on July 14, 2011, seeking review of the Commissioner's denial of benefits. The parties filed a consent to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge on July 26, 2011. Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment on December 13, 2011. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on February 16, 2012. Plaintiff filed a reply to Defendant's motion for summary judgment on February 22, 2012. The Court has taken the motions under submission without oral argument. See L.R. 7-15; "Order," filed July 15, 2011.


Plaintiff, a former fast food cook and caregiver, asserted disability since August 1, 2003, based on, inter alia, "suicidal/ bipolar/anxiety/[high blood pressure]/alcoholism/[avascular necrosis of the left hip], stroke, [and] [syncope]" (Administrative Record ("A.R.") 187-88). As discussed in more detail below, Plaintiff claims she suffers from disabling pain and other symptomatology of allegedly disabling severity (A.R. 31-44, 52-77).

On October 28, 2010, an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") found Plaintiff not disabled (A.R. 15-24). The ALJ determined that Plaintiff had performed substantial gainful activity through August 31, 2008 (A.R. 18). The ALJ found that Plaintiff suffers from severe "avascular necrosis of the left hip secondary to alcohol abuse; depressive disorder, not otherwise specified; personality disorder with mixed features; and alcohol abuse in early remission" (A.R. 18). However, the ALJ found that, absent substance abuse, Plaintiff retains the capacity to perform a full range of medium work, limited only by not working around hazardous machinery or having responsibility for the safety of others (A.R. 22). The ALJ found Plaintiff capable of performing moderately complex tasks of 4- to 5-step instructions in a relatively habituated setting, preferably object-oriented work (A.R. 22-23 (adopting medical expert's testimony at A.R. 46)). According to the ALJ, Plaintiff can perform her past relevant work as a companion, fast food cook, or dietary aid despite her limitations (A.R. 23 (adopting vocational expert testimony at A.R. 80-81)). In denying benefits, the ALJ deemed Plaintiff's testimony credible only to the extent consistent with the residual functional capacity the ALJ found to exist (A.R. 23). The Appeals Council denied review (A.R. 1-3).


Under 42 U.S.C. section 405(g), this Court reviews the Administration's decision to determine if: (1) the Administration's findings are supported by substantial evidence; and (2) the Administration used correct legal standards. See Carmickle v. Commissioner, 533 F.3d 1155, 1159 (9th Cir. 2008); Hoopai v. Astrue, 499 F.3d 1071, 1074 (9th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (citation and quotations omitted); see Widmark v. Barnhart, 454 F.3d 1063, 1067 (9th Cir. 2006).


Plaintiff contends, inter alia, that the ALJ erred in the process of evaluating Plaintiff's credibility. On the present record, the Court agrees.

I. Summary of the Medical Record

The record reflects that Plaintiff has a long history of alcohol and drug abuse. In October 2004, Plaintiff admitted to drinking daily for the previous 25 years, using methamphetamine 1-3 times per week for the previous 15 years, and using marijuana occasionally (A.R. 254-57, 260). Plaintiff was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity, alcohol, methamphetamine and cannabis abuse, personality disorder not otherwise specified, and high blood pressure (A.R. 254). Plaintiff received residential treatment for alcohol abuse from August 2004 through November 2004 (A.R. 252).

Plaintiff's drug and alcohol abuse continued beyond 2004. In August 2005, Plaintiff dropped out of a detoxification program for alcohol and methamphetamine use (A.R. 251). In January 2009, Plaintiff was hospitalized for gross alcohol intoxication and possible drug overdose and for making suicidal threats (A.R. 299, 301, 316). Plaintiff underwent detoxification and was released (A.R. 300). Her ...

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