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Gregorio Martinez Sanchez v. Carolyn W. Colvin

March 29, 2013

GREGORIO MARTINEZ SANCHEZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sheri Pym United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

On May 10, 2012, plaintiff Gregorio Martinez Sanchez filed a complaint against defendant, the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner"), seeking a review of a denial of disability insurance benefits ("DIB"). Both plaintiff and defendant have consented to proceed for all purposes before the Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). The parties' briefing is now complete, and the court deems the matter suitable for adjudication without oral argument.

Two issues are presented for decision here: (1) whether the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") properly discounted plaintiff's credibility; and (2) whether the ALJ erred at step five. Memorandum in Support of Plaintiff's Complaint ("Pl. Mem.") at 4-10.

Having carefully studied, inter alia, the briefs submitted by the parties and the Administrative Record ("AR"), the court finds that the ALJ erred. The ALJ improperly discounted plaintiff's credibility and erred at step five. The court therefore reverses the Commissioner's decision denying benefits and remands for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, who was fifty-four years old on the date of his November 30, 2010 administrative hearing, went to school in Mexico and has the equivalent of an eighth-grade education. See AR at 29, 35. Plaintiff is illiterate and unable to communicate in English. Id. at 31, 43. His past relevant work includes employment as a construction worker. Id. at 43.

Plaintiff filed for DIB on June 9, 2009, alleging that he has been disabled since June 10, 2008. Id. at 112-115. Plaintiff's application was denied, after which he filed a request for a hearing. Id. at 57-60, 61-62.

On November 30, 2010, plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared and testified at a hearing before the ALJ. Id. at 29-48. The ALJ also heard testimony from a vocational expert ("VE"), Freeman Leeth. Id. at 41-46. On January 12, 2011, the ALJ affirmed the denial of plaintiff's request for benefits. Id. at 13-25.

Applying the well-known five-step sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found, at step one, that plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged disability onset date. Id. at 21.

At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff suffers from severe impairments consisting of: left shoulder acromioclavicular separation, status post surgical reconstruction; medial meniscal tearing and chrondromalacia of the patella of the right knee, status post right knee arthoscopy; and partial medial meniscectomy and chondroplasty. Id.

At step three, the ALJ determined that the evidence does not demonstrate that plaintiff's impairments, either individually or in combination, meet or medically equal the severity of any listing set forth in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. Id. at 21-22.

The ALJ then assessed plaintiff's residual functional capacity ("RFC"), and *fn1 found him able to: "lift 25 pounds frequently and 50 pounds occasionally"; "stand and/or walk 6 hours in an eight-hour workday; unlimited in sitting." Id. at 22. She found plaintiff unable to climb ropes, ladders, and scaffolds, but able occasionally to climb, stoop, kneel, crouch, balance, and crawl. Id. With his "left upper extremity," plaintiff would be "able to perform only occasional overhead reaching." Id.

The ALJ found, at step four, that plaintiff is not capable of performing his past relevant work as a ...


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