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Cynthia Brooks v. Michael J. Astrue

June 22, 2012

CYNTHIA BROOKS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John E. Mcdermott United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER REVERSING DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY AND REMANDING FOR FURTHER PROCEEDINGS

PROCEEDINGS

On October 25, 2011, Cynthia Brooks ("Plaintiff") filed a Complaint seeking review of the decision by the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner") denying her application for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. The Commissioner filed an Answer on January 24, 2012. On June 5, 2012, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS"). The matter is now ready for decision.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), both parties consented to proceed before the undersigned Magistrate Judge. After reviewing the pleadings, transcripts, and administrative record ("AR"), the Court concludes that the Commissioner's decision must be reversed and remanded for further proceedings in accordance with this Memorandum Opinion and Order and with law.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was born on December 21, 1947, and was 55 years old on her alleged disability onset date of May 18, 2003. (AR 111.) Plaintiff filed an application for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits on June 10, 2009 (AR 111-12), and claims she is disabled due to problems with her back, shoulders, and elbow. (AR 153.) Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity from her alleged onset date of May 18, 2003, through her date last insured of December 31, 2008. (AR 12.)

Plaintiff's claim was denied initially on September 10, 2009 (AR 64-67), and upon reconsideration on December 16, 2009. (AR 69-73.) Plaintiff then filed a timely request for hearing on January 21, 2010. (AR 74.) Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified at a hearing held on December 1, 2010, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Kevin McCormick. (AR 38-61.) The ALJ issued a decision denying benefits on March 31, 2011. (AR 10-17.) The Appeals Council denied review on September 15, 2011. (AR 1-4.)

DISPUTED ISSUES

As reflected in the Joint Stipulation, there are three disputed issues:

(1) whether the ALJ properly evaluated the opinion of treating physician Dr. Kharrazi;

(2) whether the ALJ posed a complete hypothetical question to the vocational expert; and

(3) whether the ALJ properly determined that Plaintiff could perform her past relevant work as a home attendant.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the ALJ's decision to determine whether the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence and free of legal error. Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996); see also DeLorme v. Sullivan, 924 F.2d 841, 846 (9th Cir. 1991) (ALJ's disability determination ...


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