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Andy Quach v. Michael J. Astrue

November 30, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: VICTOR B. Kenton United States Magistrate Judge


This matter is before the Court for review of the decision by the Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff's application for disability benefits. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(c), the parties have consented that the case may be handled by the Magistrate Judge. The action arises under 42 U.S.C. §405(g), which authorizes the Court to enter judgment upon the pleadings and transcript of the Administrative Record ("AR") before the Commissioner. The parties have filed the Joint Stipulation ("JS"), and the Commissioner has filed the certified AR.

Plaintiff raises the following issues:

1. Whether the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") erred in the assessment of Plaintiff's mental residual functional capacity;

2. Whether the ALJ erred in the credibility findings; and

3. Whether the ALJ erred in relying on the vocational experts' response to his incomplete hypothetical question.

(JS at 2-3.)

This Memorandum Opinion will constitute the Court's findings of fact and conclusions of law. After reviewing the matter, the Court concludes that for the reasons set forth, the decision of the Commissioner must be reversed and the matter remanded.



Plaintiff Andy Quach ("Plaintiff") was born on August 16, 1991. (AR 380.) In his Decision (AR 13-22), the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has severe impairments of autistic disorder (Asperger's) syndrome, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ("ADHD"). (AR 15.) The ALJ determined that Plaintiff has non-exertional limitations, due to mental functioning issues, restricting him to jobs involving only simple, repetitive tasks with limited public contact. (AR 16.)

There are numerous diagnostic and evaluative records in the AR, including reports from psychiatrists, school psychologists, teachers, and other professionals. Pertinent reports were prepared by Dr. Robert Rome, Ph.D., who performed a psychological evaluation on August 9, 2006 at the request of the North Los Angeles Regional Center (AR 270-277); a report of the Behavior Education Services Team ("BEST") to whom Plaintiff was referred by the North Los Angeles Regional Center (AR 310-312); a report of Los Angeles Unified School District ("LAUSD") school psychologist Dr. Marjorie Warren-Goldstein (AR 380-388); a report of Dr. Jerold Parrish, M.D., Plaintiff's treating psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente (AR 646-656); a report of Dr. Donald Gallo, Ph.D., a psychologist at Kaiser Permanente (AR 640-644); a report of consultative psychological examiner ("CE") Dr. Lou Sherrill, Ph.D. (AR 604-609); and the opinion of the State Agency non-examining consultant, Dr. R. Tasjian, M.D. (AR 615-617, 618-628).

What is apparent from an overall reading of these documents is that Plaintiff has manifested continuous and extreme behavior difficulties, including difficulties with peers, teachers, and his parents, and severe difficulties following instructions. The report of treating psychiatrist Dr. Parrish, and in particular, and the form he thereafter filled out entitled Medical Source Statement of Ability to do Work-Related Activities ("Mental") is particularly relevant and instructive. Consistent with the ALJ's finding of severe impairments, Dr. Parrish diagnosed Plaintiff on Axis I with Asperger's disorder and ADHD. (AR 648.) Dr. Parrish noted moderate limitations in Plaintiff's ability to understand and remember short, simple instructions and to carry out short and simple instructions. As to Plaintiff's ability to carry out detailed instructions, Dr. Parrish found marked limitations, as he did with Plaintiff's ability to make judgment on simple work-related decisions, and in understanding and remembering detailed instructions. (AR 654.) The psychiatrist found extreme limitations (i.e., greater than "marked") in Plaintiff's ability to interact appropriately with the public, with co-workers, and to respond appropriately to work pressures in a usual work setting. Marked limitations were found in Plaintiff's ability to respond appropriately to changes in a routine work setting. (AR 655.)

The ALJ summarized Dr. Parrish's conclusions, but found that they were "not supported by the evidence of record referred to above [e.g., the evidence summarized at AR 17-19], insofar as the [Plaintiff] demonstrates he is able to function, especially with tasks involving simple instructions. Therefore, Dr. Parrish's opinions are entitled to some but not controlling weight." (AR 20.) For the following ...

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