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Daniel Rodriguez v. Michael J. Astrue

October 11, 2012

DANIEL RODRIGUEZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Paul L. Abrams United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

I.

PROCEEDINGS

Plaintiff filed this action on November 2, 2011, seeking review of the Commissioner's denial of his application for Supplemental Security Income payments. The parties filed Consents to proceed before the undersigned Magistrate Judge onDecember 5, 2011, and December 16, 2011. Pursuant to the Court's Order, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation on August 16, 2012, that addresses their positions concerning the disputed issue in the case. The Court has taken the Joint Stipulation under submission without oral argument.

II.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was born on December 22, 1960. [Administrative Record ("AR") at 157.] He has an eleventh grade education [AR at 171], and past work experience as a truck driver helper, store laborer, baker's helper, construction worker, and a kitchen helper. [AR at 32, 56-59, 166.]*fn1

On November 22, 2000, plaintiff protectively filed his application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") payments, alleging that he was unable to work since November 22, 2000, due to mental stress. [AR at 157-60, 164-73.] After his application was denied initially, plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). [AR at 96-99, 104.] A hearing was held on August 14, 2003, at which plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified on his own behalf. [AR at 51-93.] A vocational expert and a medical expert also testified. [AR at 68-90.] On October 24, 2003, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled. [AR at 31-41.] Plaintiff requested review of the hearing decision. [AR at 25.]

On November 30, 2004, while plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision concerning his application for SSI payments was still pending, plaintiff protectively filed a second application for SSI payments, alleging that he was unable to work since November 1, 2004, due to an affective disorder. [See AR at 460, 710.] That application was granted.*fn2 [See id.]

On March 11, 2005, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision concerning plaintiff's first application for SSI payments. [AR at 4-8.] Plaintiff then filed an action in this Court in Case No. CV 05-2643-PLA, challenging the Commissioner's decision. On April 5, 2006, the Court remanded the matter with instructions to evaluate the severity of plaintiff's mental impairment in light of new evidence. [AR at 443-52.] On August 9, 2006, the Appeals Council vacated the ALJ's decision and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with the Court's 2006 Order and for the period prior to November 1, 2004.*fn3 [AR at 460-61.]

On March 3, 2008, another hearing was held, at which plaintiff did not appear but was represented by counsel. [AR at 652-71.] Testimony was received from two medical experts and a vocational expert. [AR at 656-71.] On April 9, 2008, the ALJ again determined that plaintiff was not disabled. [AR at 409-18.] Plaintiff subsequently filed a second action in this Court in Case No. CV 08-3815-PLA, challenging that decision. While that action was pending, on May 29, 2009, plaintiff protectively filed a third application for SSI payments, alleging that he was unable to work since May 29, 2009. [See AR at 677.] On July 15, 2009, this Court remanded plaintiff's case in Case No. CV 08-3815-PLA for the ALJ to properly consider plaintiff's treating psychiatrist's opinion. [AR at 689-704.] On August 28, 2009, the Appeals Council vacated the ALJ's April 9, 2008, decision, remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with the Court's 2009 Order, and ordered the ALJ to consider whether plaintiff's appeal in that case (concerning his first SSI application) should be consolidated with his third SSI application. [AR at 710-11.]

On January 13, 2011, a different ALJ held a hearing, at which time plaintiff appeared with counsel. [AR at 1155-68.] The ALJ declined to consolidate plaintiff's first SSI application with his third SSI application, and remanded the latter to the State Agency. [See AR at 677, 1164.]*fn4 On March 29, 2011, the new ALJ held a supplemental hearing, at which time plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified on his own behalf. [AR at 1169-1217.] A vocational expert also testified. [AR at 1212-15.] On July 19, 2011, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled prior to July 3, 2004, but became disabled on that date and continued to be disabled through October 31, 2004. [AR at 676-88.] This action followed.

III.

STANDARD OF ...


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