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Sandra Rocha v. Michael J. Astrue

December 3, 2012

SANDRA ROCHA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER (Social Security Case)

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") properly considered the opinions of treating physicians Dr. Goldman, Dr. Steiger and Dr. Tremazi;

2. Whether the ALJ provided a complete and accurate assessment of Plaintiff's residual functional capacity;

3. Whether the ALJ poses complete hypothetical questions to the vocational expert; and

4. Whether the ALJ's credibility determination is supported by clear and convincing evidence.

(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.

I

THE ALJ DID NOT PROPERLY CONSIDER THE OPINIONS OF TREATING PHYSICIANS DRS. GOLDMAN, STEIGER AND TREMAZI The ALJ determined that Plaintiff has severe musculoskeletal impairments consisting of carpal tunnel syndrome, cervical spine degenerative disc disease and impingement syndrome of the right shoulder. (AR 12.) He assessed a Residual Functional Capacity ("RFC") to perform light work with postural limitations (climbing ramps/ stairs, balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching and crawling) on an occasional basis; an inability to climb ladders, rugs or scaffolds; and limitation of handling and fingering to "frequently but not continuously." (AR 13.)

As a result of an industrial accident, Plaintiff received treatment and was also examined in the Workers Compensation context.

On March 19, 2007, Plaintiff's primary treating physician, Scott Goldman, M.D., a board certified orthopedic surgeon, reported that Plaintiff has normal range of motion of the right wrist and digits of the right hand, decreased sensation in the index and middle finger, and has "impairment with regard to grasping and tactile discrimination." It was indicated that she reached her maximum medical improvement as of March 19, 2007. (AR 204.) Dr. Goldman assessed that in a work context she can do no fingering or gripping, and cannot lift greater than ten pounds with the right upper extremity. Dr. Goldman prepared his report as a Qualified Medical Examiner ("QME"); thus, the report was written in the Workers Compensation context.

Dr. Ralph Steiger, a Diplomate of the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery, prepared a report on December 2, 2007. (AR 267-272.) He diagnosed numerous musculoskeletal impairments. (AR 267-270.) He assessed restrictions of no "repetitive" pushing, pulling, reaching or lifting as well as no "repetitive" work at or above shoulder level. Further, Plaintiff should avoid any "repetitive" gripping, grasping or pinching and no keyboarding more than 50% of the workday. Due to her cervical spine injury, he opined that she should avoid any "repetitive" neck movement or "prolonged" fixed gaze in a flexed or extended position, or any heavy lifting. ...


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