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Joerenze Tucker v. Michael J. Astrue

March 15, 2012

JOERENZE TUCKER,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION,
DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF REMAND

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.

PROCEEDINGS

Plaintiff filed a complaint on August 12, 2011, seeking review of the Commissioner's denial of disability benefits. The parties filed a consent to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge on August 25, 2011. Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment on January 16, 2012. Defendant filed a cross-motion for summary judgment on February 1, 2012. Plaintiff filed a reply to Defendant's motion on February 6, 2012. The Court has taken the motions under submission without oral argument. See L.R. 7-15; "Order," filed August 17, 2011.

BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

Plaintiff, a former cook's helper and commercial cleaner, asserts disability since June 1, 2004, based on alleged psychological impairments (Administrative Record ("A.R.") 184, 213, 241, 442-43). Plaintiff testified to symptoms of allegedly disabling severity (A.R. 441-47, 456-58, 466-67, 473-77, 479-81, 484-86). Plaintiff's sister submitted a written statement potentially corroborative of Plaintiff's testimony (A.R. 193-200).

The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") found Plaintiff not disabled (A.R. 10-18). The ALJ determined that Plaintiff suffers from:

(1) severe substance-induced psychotic disorder, not otherwise specified, with schizoaffective features; (2) personality disorder, not otherwise specified; and (3) mixed substance disorder in institutional remission since April 2010 (A.R. 12 (adopting medical expert testimony at A.R. 447, 468)). The ALJ found that, absent substance use, Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertion levels, excluding work involving safety operations, work requiring hypervigilance, and work with moving machinery or similar hazards (A.R. 13 (adopting medical expert testimony at A.R. 449, 470)). The ALJ found Plaintiff capable of performing moderately complex tasks of 4- to 5-step instructions (A.R. 13 (adopting medical expert's testimony at A.R. 449, 469-70); but see A.R. 16 (ALJ elsewhere stating that Plaintiff is limited to work in a "habituated setting" -- a limitation the medical expert also found to exist at A.R. 449)). With these limitations,*fn1 according to the ALJ, Plaintiff could perform his past relevant work as a cook's helper and commercial cleaner (A.R. 16 (adopting vocational expert testimony at A.R. 481-82)). Alternatively, the ALJ found that Plaintiff could perform other jobs existing in the national economy including linen room attendant, hand packer, and industrial cleaner (A.R. 17-18 (adopting vocational expert testimony at A.R. 483-87)).

The ALJ deemed Plaintiff's testimony not credible to the extent the testimony was inconsistent with the residual functional capacity determination (A.R. 14). The ALJ also deemed not credible the lay witness observations of Plaintiff's sister, to the extent those observations were inconsistent with the residual functional capacity determination (A.R. 14).

The Appeals Council denied review (A.R. 1-3).

STANDARD OF REVIEW

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).

DISCUSSION

Plaintiff contends, inter alia, that the ALJ erred in connection with the ALJ's consideration of the opinion of the medical expert. See Plaintiff's Motion at 7-8. Plaintiff also contends that the ALJ failed to consider properly the residual functional capacity assessment by a state agency ...


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