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Ramirez v. Colvin

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

June 11, 2013

SALUSTIANO RAMIREZ, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

STEPHEN J. HILLMAN, Magistrate Judge.

I. PROCEEDINGS

This matter is before the Court for review of the Decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying plaintiff's application for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties have consented that the case may be handled by the undersigned. The action arises under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), which authorizes the Court to enter judgment upon the pleadings and transcript of the record before the Commissioner. Plaintiff and Defendant have filed their pleadings and memorandums of points of authorities. The defendant has filed the certified administrative record (AR). The matter has been taken under submission.

II. BACKGROUND

On November 12, 2008, Plaintiff filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) alleging disability since November 5, 2008. (AR 20, 292-93). He later amended his onset date to June 6, 2006 (AR 171-72). Plaintiff's application was denied on February 4, 2009 and denied upon reconsideration on April 30, 2009. (AR 20). Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing which was held before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Three hearings took place on May 26, 2010, February 8, 2011, and February 25, 2011. (AR 42-166).

Following the hearings, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not and had not been under a disability within the meaning of the Social Security Act during the period alleged through the date of the decision. (AR 20). The ALJ determined that Plaintiff suffered from morbid obesity, degenerative disc disease of the neck and lumbar spine, bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, and right peroneal nerve neuropathy. (AR 22). However, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments. (AR 23). Furthermore, the ALJ found that: (1) Plaintiff has a residual functional capacity to perform light work; (2) Plaintiff is unable to perform past relevant work; and (3) that considering Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform. (AR 24, 34).

The Appeals Council denied review of the decision on July 16, 2012. (AR 1-6). This action followed.

III. CONTENTIONS OF THE PARTIES

Plaintiff filed this action making six challenges to the ALJ's decision. Plaintiff contends that: (1) the ALJ committed legal error in not adequately assessing Plaintiff's testimony; (2) the ALJ failed to properly reject the opinions of the treating physician; (3) the ALJ failed to consider radiculopathy of the cervical spine; (4) the ALJ failed to properly consider Plaintiff's hand limitations; (5) the record supports a meeting or equaling of listing 1.04A; and (6) the ALJ's Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) is not supported by substantial evidence.

Defendant asserts that the ALJ reasonably discredited Plaintiff's testimony due to inconsistencies the ALJ found in Plaintiff's testimony and daily activities. Additionally, Defendant contends that the ALJ properly rejected the treating physician's opinion because it was unsupported by his treatment notes and inconsistent with the opinions of other doctors. Also, the Defendant argues that the ALJ properly considered Plaintiff's allegations of radiculopathy and hand limitations in determining the requirements for Listing 1.04A and Plaintiff's residual functional capacity.

For the reasons discussed below, the Court finds that the Plaintiff's first and second claims of error have merit. Since the matter is remanded for further proceedings based on Plaintiff's first two claims of error, the Court will not address Plaintiff's third, fourth, fifth, and sixth claims.

IV. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the Commissioner's decision to determine if: (1) the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence; and (2) the Commissioner used proper legal standards. DeLorme v. Sullivan , 924 F.2d 841, 846 (9th Cir. 1991). Substantial evidence means "more than a mere scintilla, " Richardson v. Perales , 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971), but "less than a preponderance." Desrosiers v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs. , 846 F.2d 573, 576 (9th Cir. 1988). This Court cannot disturb the Commissioner's findings if those findings are supported by substantial evidence, even though other evidence may exist which supports Plaintiff's claim. See ...


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