United States District Court, S.D. California
Diane R. Humphreys, Plaintiff,
Carolyn L. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
GRANTING in part PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Doc. 15); and DENYING
DEFENDANT'S CROSS MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Doc. 16.)
PETER C. LEWIS, Magistrate Judge.
On February 8, 2012, Plaintiff filed this action pursuant to the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (Doc. 1.) Plaintiff seeks judicial review of Acting Commissioner of Social Security's final decision denying Plaintiff's application for disability insurance benefits. (Doc. 1.) Plaintiff filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 15), and Defendant filed a Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 16). The Honorable Thomas J. Whelan referred the matter to undersigned judge for Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). After a thorough review of all pleadings and the entire record submitted in this matter, this Court recommends that Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment be GRANTED IN PART and that Defendant's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment be DENIED.
A. Procedural Background
Plaintiff Diane R. Humphreys filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income on October 6, 2006, alleging an inability to work beginning February 1, 2003. (A.R. 16-18, 136.) The matter was initially heard by the ALJ on April 23, 2008 (A.R. 104-130), resulting in an unfavorable decision on February 2, 2009 (A.R. 133-140). Plaintiff appealed the decision, and the Appeals Council issued an Order Remanding Case on June 18, 2009. (A.R. 141-144.)
A second hearing was held by the same ALJ on July 9, 2010 (A.R. 85-103), and the remanded claim was denied on July 19, 2010 (A.R. 145-160). The denial was appealed, and the Appeals Council again remanded the case and directed that a different ALJ hear the case. (A.R. 161-164.) Plaintiff appeared and testified at this hearing held on April 28, 2011 before ALJ Norman R. Buls. On June 21, 2011, ALJ Buls issued an unfavorable decision. (A.R. 13-30.) In his decision, the ALJ made the following findings:
1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since October 6, 2006, the application date.
2. The claimant has the following severe impairments: bipolar disorder and methamphetamine dependence, in remission.
3. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
4. The claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional limitations: claimant is unable to sustain concentration or attention for prolonged periods, maintain a normal schedule of attendance, sustain an ordinary work routine, work in conjunction with others, interact with co-workers, supervisors or the public, or respond appropriately to changes in work routine.
5. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work.
6. The claimant's acquired job skills do not transfer to other occupations within the residual functional capacity defined above.
7. Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity based on all the impairments, including the substance use disorder, there are no jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that claimant can perform.
8. If the claimant stopped the substance abuse, the remaining limitations would not cause more than a minimal impact on the claimant's ability to perform basic work activities; therefore, the claimant would not have a severe impairment or combination of impairments.
9. Because the claimant would not be disabled if she stopped the substance use, the claimant's substance use disorder is a contributing factor material to the determination of disability. Thus, the claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from October 6, 2006, through the date of this decision.
Plaintiff appealed, but the Appeals Council issued an unfavorable decision on December 14, 2011, making the ALJ's June 2011 decision the final determination of the Commissioner of Social Security for purposes of judicial review. (A.R. 1-5.) Plaintiff then filed this action on February 8, 2012. (Doc. 1.) Defendant answered on May 21, 2013. (Doc. 10.) On October 21, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 15), and ...