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Ricky R. Ortega v. Michael J. Astrue

December 6, 2012

RICKY R. ORTEGA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John E. Mcdermott United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER REVERSING DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY AND REMANDING FOR FURTHER PROCEEDINGS

PROCEEDINGS

On March 29, 2012, Ricky R. Ortega ("Plaintiff" or "Claimant") filed a complaint seeking review of the decision by the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying Plaintiff's application for Supplemental Security Income benefits. The Commissioner filed an Answer on July 19, 2012. On November 2, 2012, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS"). The matter is now ready for decision.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), both parties consented to proceed before this Magistrate Judge. After reviewing the pleadings, transcripts, and administrative record ("AR"), the Court concludes that the Commissioner's decision must be reversed and remanded for further proceedings in accordance with this Memorandum Opinion and Order and with law.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is a 47 year old male who applied for Supplemental Security Income benefits on September 16, 2008, alleging disability beginning August 1, 2005. (AR 22.) The ALJ determined that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since September 16, 2008, the application date. (AR 25.)

Plaintiff's claim was denied initially on December 11, 2008, and on reconsideration on March 24, 2009. (AR 22.) Plaintiff filed a timely request for hearing, which was held before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Joseph D. Schloss on May 11, 2010, in San Bernardino, California. (AR 22.) Claimant appeared at the hearing and testified, and was represented by counsel. (AR 22.) Medical expert ("ME") Samuel Landau, M.D. and vocational expert ("VE") Sandra M. Fioretti also appeared and testified at the hearing. (AR 22.)

The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on June 24, 2010. (AR 22-31.) The Appeals Council denied review on January 25, 2012. (AR 1-6.)

DISPUTED ISSUES

As reflected in the Joint Stipulation, Plaintiff raises the following disputed issues as grounds for reversal and remand:

1. Whether the ALJ's residual functional capacity assessment is supported by substantial evidence.

2. Whether the ALJ's credibility determination is supported by substantial evidence. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the ALJ's decision to determine whether the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence and free of legal error. Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996); see also DeLorme v. Sullivan, 924 F.2d 841, 846 (9th Cir. 1991) (ALJ's disability determination must be supported by substantial evidence and based on the proper legal standards).

Substantial evidence means "'more than a mere scintilla,' but less than a preponderance." Saelee v. Chater, 94 F.3d 520, 521-22 (9th Cir. 1996) (quoting Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a ...


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