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Denny J. Hayley v. Michael J. Astrue

October 26, 2012

DENNY J. HAYLEY,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
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 May 2, 2012, seeking review of the Commissioner's denial of benefits. The parties filed a consent to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge on May 22, 2012.

Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment on September 17, 2012. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on October 17, 2012. The Court has taken the motions under submission without oral argument. See L.R. 7-15; "Order," filed May 3, 2012.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff asserts disability based primarily on alleged psychiatric impairments (Administrative Record ("A.R.") 32-1006). At an administrative hearing, Plaintiff testified he currently suffers from psychiatric symptoms of allegedly disabling severity (A.R. 38, 53-54, 58-59). Plaintiff also testified he previously engaged in substance abuse, but claimed he had ceased using methamphetamine three months before the hearing and had ceased drinking alcohol longer ago than that (A.R. 36, 40, 44-45).

An Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") found that Plaintiff has severe impairments including "affective mood disorder," "posttraumatic stress disorder" and "substance abuse" (A.R. 18). The ALJ determined that these impairments disable Plaintiff, but deemed Plaintiff's substance abuse to be a "factor material to the determination of disability," within the meaning of 20 C.F.R. § 404.1535 (A.R 18-25). The ALJ assessed a residual functional capacity for a limited range of light work (A.R. 20). The ALJ stated:

If the claimant stopped the substance abuse, the undersigned finds that the claimant's medically determinable impairments could reasonably be expected to produce the alleged symptoms; however, the claimant's statements concerning the intensity, persistence and limiting effects of these symptoms are not credible to the extent they are inconsistent with the residual functional capacity assessment for the reasons explained below.

(A.R. 21). The ALJ denied disability benefits. Id. The Appeals Council denied review (A.R. 2-4).

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 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's motion asserts that the ALJ found Plaintiff's testimony regarding the allegedly disabling severity of his current symptoms not credible, and did so without stating sufficient supporting reasons. Defendant's motion asserts that "[t]he ALJ found Plaintiff's symptom testimony credible, but only to the extent that it reflected Plaintiff's symptoms while he abused substances" (Defendant's motion at 3). Although the Court is not confident ...


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