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Jeremy Kidwell Corr v. Michael J. Astrue

May 16, 2012

JEREMY KIDWELL CORR,
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

Pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. section 405(g), IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration is reversed and the matter is remanded for the immediate calculation and payment of benefits.

PROCEEDINGS

Plaintiff filed a complaint on September 23, 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 October 27, 2011. Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment on March 19, 2012. Defendant filed a cross-motion for summary judgment on April 18, 2012. The Court has taken the motions under submission without oral argument. See L.R. 7-15; "Order," filed September 26, 2011.

BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

Plaintiff asserts disability based on heart problems (A.R. 140-46, 157-58). Plaintiff testified to symptoms of allegedly disabling severity (A.R. 39-70). Plaintiff's former roommate gave potentially corroborating testimony (A.R. 71-88).

The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") found Plaintiff not disabled (A.R. 28-35). The ALJ determined that Plaintiff suffers from the following severe impairments: "status post AICD (Automatic Implantable Cardiac Defibrillator) cardioversion, probable episode of atrial flutter and ventricular tachycardia, tricuspid atresia, status post fontan with lateral tunnel, and status post pacer AICD with history of atrial flutter" (A.R. 30). Plaintiff's treating physicians opined that Plaintiff's cardiac impairments reduce Plaintiff's functional capacity well below the capacity necessary to sustain substantial gainful activity (A.R. 350-51, 469-70). The ALJ disagreed with these opinions (A.R. 30-31). According to the ALJ, Plaintiff retains the capacity to perform "light work" except that Plaintiff can stand or walk only two hours in an eight-hour workday, can perform postural activities only occasionally, cannot crawl, cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, cannot be exposed to extreme temperatures, cannot work around heights or around hazardous equipment, and cannot be exposed to concentrated dust, fumes, and gases (A.R. 30-31).*fn1 With these limitations, according to the ALJ, Plaintiff could perform jobs existing in the national economy including cashier II, food and beverage order clerk, and telephone quotation clerk (A.R. 35 (adopting vocational expert testimony at A.R. 89-90)).

The ALJ deemed Plaintiff's testimony not credible to the extent the testimony was inconsistent with the ALJ's residual functional capacity determination (A.R. 31, 33). The ALJ also deemed not credible the lay witness observations of Plaintiff's former roommate, to the extent those observations were inconsistent with the ALJ's residual functional capacity determination (A.R. 33-34). The Appeals Council denied review (A.R. 1-4).

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 "means 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).

Where, as here, the Appeals Council considered additional material but denied review, the additional material becomes part of the Administrative Record for purposes of the Court's analysis. See Harman v. Apfel, 211 F.3d 1172, 1179-80 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 531 U.S. 1038 (2000) (reviewing court properly may consider materials submitted to the Appeals Council when the Appeals Council addressed the materials in denying review); Ramirez v. Shalala, 8 F.3d 1449, 1452 (9th Cir. 1993) ("although the Appeals Council declined to review the decision of the ALJ, it reached this ruling after considering the case on the merits; examining the entire record, including the additional material; and concluding that the ALJ's decision was proper and that the additional material failed to provide a basis for changing the hearing decision. For these reasons, we consider on appeal both the ALJ's decision and the additional material submitted to the Appeals Council") (citations and quotations omitted); Penny v. Sullivan, 2 F.3d 953, 957 n.7 (9th Cir. 1993) ("the Appeals Council considered this information and it became part of the record we are required to review as a whole"); see generally 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.970(b), 416.1470(b).

DISCUSSION

Plaintiff contends, inter alia, that the ALJ erred in the ALJ's evaluation of certain opinions rendered by Plaintiff's treating physicians, and that substantial evidence does not support the ALJ's residual functional capacity assessment. See Plaintiff's ...


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