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Arthur D. Fisher v. Carolyn W. Colvin

May 3, 2013

ARTHUR D. FISHER,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Alicia G. Rosenberg United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff filed this action on August 13, 2012. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before the magistrate judge on August 29 and 30, 2012. (Dkt. Nos. 6, 8.) On March 21, 2013, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS") that addressed the disputed issues. The court has taken the matter under submission without oral argument.

Having reviewed the entire file, the court reverses the decision of the Commissioner and remands for consideration of the January 2011 opinions of Dr. Leung and Dr. Gogatz.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On June 30, 2009, Fisher filed an application for disability insurance benefits, alleging an onset date of February 12, 2008. Administrative Record ("AR") 10, 138. The application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. AR 10, 61, 65. Fisher requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). AR 72. On March 4, 2011, the ALJ conducted a hearing at which Fisher and a vocational expert testified. AR 24-60. On April 27, 2011, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 7-19. On June 20, 2012, the Appeals Council denied the request for review. AR 1-5. This action followed.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this court reviews the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. The decision will be disturbed only if it is not supported by substantial evidence, or if it is based upon the application of improper legal standards. Moncada v. Chater, 60 F.3d 521, 523 (9th Cir. 1995); Drouin v. Sullivan, 966 F.2d 1255, 1257 (9th Cir. 1992).

"Substantial evidence" means "more than a mere scintilla but less than a preponderance -- it is such relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support the conclusion." Moncada, 60 F.3d at 523. In determining whether substantial evidence exists to support the Commissioner's decision, the court examines the administrative record as a whole, considering adverse as well as supporting evidence. Drouin, 966 F.2d at 1257. When the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the court must defer to the Commissioner's decision. Moncada, 60 F.3d at 523.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Disability

A person qualifies as disabled and is eligible for benefits, "only if his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy." Barnhart v. Thomas, 540 U.S. 20, 21-22, 124 S. Ct. 376, 157 L. Ed. 2d 333 (2003).

B. The ALJ's Findings

The ALJ found that Fisher met the insured status requirements through September 30, 2013. AR 12. Fisher had the severe impairments of degenerative disk disease, mood disorder and post traumatic stress disorder. Id. He had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform a range of light work. He could "lift/carry 10 pounds frequently, 20 pounds occasionally; stand, walk and/or sit 6 hours in an 8-hour workday, he would need to alternate positions at one-hour intervals for 1-5 minutes at his workstation. He could frequently kneel, crouch, crawl and stoop; he could frequently climb ramps and stairs and occasionally climb ladders, ropes and scaffolds. He has no limitations on the use of his hands for fine or gross manipulations. He is limited to simple routine repetitive tasks in a work environment free of fast paced production requirements or assembly line work, his work cannot involve large (over 30 people) crowds or repeated request from the general public. He can maintain concentration and attention in at least 2-hour blocks of time and respond appropriately to co-workers, supervisor and the general public." AR 13.

Although Fisher was incapable of performing past relevant work, there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that Fisher could perform such as packer/packager, officer helper and electronics worker. AR 17-19.

C. Medical ...


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