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Lynch v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. California

September 2, 2014

KYLE M. LYNCH, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

ORDER

CAROLYN K. DELANEY, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying applications for Disability Income Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act ("Act"), respectively. For the reasons discussed below, the court will grant plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, deny the Commissioner's cross-motion for summary judgment, and remand this matter under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, born June 5, 1979, applied on October 27, 2009 for DIB and SSI, alleging disability beginning December 15, 2007. Administrative Transcript ("AT") 125-131. Plaintiff alleged he was unable to work due to nerve damage in his neck and back, bipolar disorder, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, attention deficit disorder, and social anxiety disorder. AT 68. In a decision dated December 28, 2011, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled.[1] AT 29. The ALJ made the following findings (citations to 20 C.F.R. omitted):

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2011.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since December 15, 2007, the alleged onset date.
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: depressive disorder, social anxiety disorder, cervical spondylosis, back strain, obsessive compulsive disorder, and attention deficit disorder.
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments.
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work... except: he is unable to climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; he could occasionally climb ramps and stairs; he could occasionally crouch and crawl; he could frequently balance, kneel, and stoop; he could occasionally work overhead; he is able to understand, remember, and carry out simple, detailed, and complex tasks; he should avoid working with the public; and he could interact with supervisors and coworkers.
6. The claimant is capable of performing past relevant work as a clerical worker and a parts router. This work does not require the performance of work-related activities precluded by the claimant's residual functional capacity.
7. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from December 15, 2007, through the date of this decision.

AT 22-29.

ISSUES PRESENTED

Plaintiff argues that the ALJ committed the following errors in finding plaintiff not disabled: (1) the ALJ gave improper weight to the opinion of Dr. Hala Saleem, a treating psychiatrist, and Dr. Troy Ewing, a consultative psychologist; (2) the ALJ improperly disregarded lay testimony of plaintiff's mother, Peggy Lynch; and (3) the ALJ failed to fully develop the record with respect to plaintiff's past work.

LEGAL STANDARDS

The court reviews the Commissioner's decision to determine whether (1) it is based on proper legal standards pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), and (2) substantial evidence in the record as a whole supports it. Tackett v. Apfel , 180 F.3d 1094, 1097 (9th Cir. 1999). Substantial evidence is more than a mere scintilla, but less than a preponderance. Connett v. Barnhart , 340 F.3d 871, 873 (9th Cir. 2003) (citation omitted). It means "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Orn v. Astrue , 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007), quoting Burch v. Barnhart , 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005). "The ALJ is responsible for determining credibility, resolving conflicts in medical testimony, and resolving ambiguities." Edlund v. Massanari , 253 F.3d 1152, 1156 (9th ...


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