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Shad P. Boyd v. Michael J. Astrue

September 27, 2012

SHAD P. BOYD,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Patrick J. Walsh United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Shad Boyd appeals a decision by Defendant Social Security Administration ("the Agency"), denying his application for Disability Insurance benefits ("DIB"). He claims that the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") erred when he failed to: (1) comply with the Appeals Council's remand orders; and (2) properly consider the workers' compensation findings. (Joint Stip. at 3.) For the reasons explained below, the appeal is denied and the action is dismissed with prejudice.

II. SUMMARY OF PROCEEDINGS

In September 2005, Plaintiff applied for DIB, alleging that he had been disabled since February 2004, due to degenerative disc disease and loss of a finger. (Administrative Record ("AR") 336-38, 356, 363-65.) The Agency denied the application initially and on reconsideration. Plaintiff then requested and was granted a hearing before an ALJ. In January 2009, he appeared with counsel at the hearing. (AR 24-62.) In March 2009, the ALJ held a supplemental hearing. (AR 63-124.) In June 2009, the ALJ issued a decision, finding that Plaintiff was disabled as of May 16, 2006, but not before then.*fn1 (AR 201-11.)

Plaintiff appealed to the Appeals Council, which remanded the case to the ALJ for further proceedings. (AR 311-13.) The ALJ then held another hearing on March 22, 2010, and, on May 4, 2010, issued a second decision, again concluding that Plaintiff was not disabled prior to May 16, 2006. (AR 11-19, 125-91.) Plaintiff appealed to the Appeals Council, which denied review. (AR 1-3.) He then commenced the instant action.

III. ANALYSIS

A. The ALJ's Failure to Adhere to the Appeal's Council's Remand Order Following the ALJ's initial decision, Plaintiff appealed to the Appeals Council, arguing that the ALJ had erred. The Appeals Council agreed and sent the case back to the ALJ with instructions to, among other things, reconsider the credibility finding and re-evaluate Plaintiff's neck and back ailments. (AR 311-13.) Plaintiff complains that the ALJ failed to follow the Appeals Council's remand order and argues that, as a result, the ALJ's decision should be reversed. For the following reasons, this argument is rejected.

The Court has a limited role in reviewing Agency decisions. It is tasked with determining whether the Agency's final decision is supported by substantial evidence and is not based on legal error. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Tyler v. Astrue, 305 F. App'x 331, 332 (9th Cir. 2008); Magallanes v. Bowen, 881 F.2d 747, 750 (9th Cir. 1989). In Tyler, the Ninth Circuit explained in an unpublished decision closely on point:

The district court properly declined to evaluate whether the ALJ's second decision satisfied the demands of the Appeals Council's remand . . . . [F]ederal courts only have jurisdiction to review the final decisions of administrative agencies. When the Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's second decision, it made that decision final, and declined to find that the ALJ had not complied with its remand instructions.

Id. at 332.

Thus, the issue of whether the ALJ followed the Appeals Council's remand order is not properly before the Court. As such, Plaintiff's claim here is rejected.

Plaintiff argues that the ALJ failed to properly evaluate Plaintiff's credibility and failed to make specific findings regarding credibility. (Joint Stip. at 4-8.) The record does not support this claim.

In his decision following remand, the ALJ incorporated his earlier decision and supplemented it with additional findings. (AR 12.) In the earlier decision, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's ability to perform daily activities, like taking care of his children, driving a car, changing his 25-pound one-year-old, washing dishes, doing laundry, and taking out the trash, was inconsistent with his claim that he was severely limited by pain. (AR 208.) In addition, the ALJ noted that some of the doctors who examined Plaintiff questioned his sincerity and suggested that he might be exaggerating his claims. (AR 208.) In the second decision, the ALJ added to this ...


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