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Muldoon v. Colvin

United States District Court, C.D. California, Western Division

September 12, 2014

NICOLE MULDOON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

DOUGLAS F. McCORMICK, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Nicole Muldoon ("Plaintiff") appeals from the decision of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") denying her application for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. Because the ALJ did not provide legitimate clear and convincing reasons for discrediting Plaintiff's subjective complaints, the ALJ's decision is reversed and the matter is remanded for further proceedings.

I.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed her application for benefits on June 25, 2010, alleging disability beginning August 27, 2009. Administrative Record ("AR") 18. The ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease (with canal stenosis) and degenerative joint disease of the lumbosacral spine; chronic active ulcerative colitis (status post colectomy and end ileostomy on May 9, 2010) and laparotomy with adhesiolysis, small bowel resection, salpingo-oophorectomy and proctoscopy on August 25, 2010; obesity; anxiety disorder; and depressive disorder. AR 20. The ALJ found that notwithstanding these impairments, Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work with certain additional limitations, most notably that she be limited to simple tasks with no public contact. AR 23. The ALJ found that Plaintiff's limitations left her unable to perform her past relevant work. AR 29. Based on the testimony of a vocational expert ("VE"), the ALJ found that Plaintiff remained capable of performing work available in significant numbers in the national and regional economy. AR 30. On that basis, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled. Id.

II.

ISSUES PRESENTED

The parties dispute whether the ALJ erred in: (1) failing to give proper weight to the opinions of Plaintiff's treating physicians; (2) assessing Plaintiff's credibility; and (3) finding that Plaintiff could perform other work at step five of the sequential evaluation because the number of jobs identified by the VE was low. See Joint Stipulation ("JS") at 4.

III.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), a district court may review the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. The ALJ's findings and decision should be upheld if they are free from legal error and are supported by substantial evidence based on the record as a whole. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Richardson v. Perales , 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Parra v. Astrue , 481 F.3d 742, 746 (9th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence means such relevant evidence as a reasonable person might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Richardson , 402 U.S. at 401; Lingenfelter v. Astrue , 504 F.3d 1028, 1035 (9th Cir. 2007). It is "more than a mere scintilla, but less than a preponderance." Lingenfelter , 504 F.3d at 1035 (citing Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin. , 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006)). To determine whether substantial evidence supports a finding, the reviewing court "must review the administrative record as a whole, weighing both the evidence that supports and the evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's conclusion." Reddick v. Chater , 157 F.3d 715, 720 (9th Cir. 1998). "If the evidence can reasonably support either affirming or reversing, " the reviewing court "may not substitute its judgment" for that of the Commissioner. Id. at 720-21.

IV.

DISCUSSION

A. The ALJ Did Not Offer Clear and Convincing Reasons for Discrediting ...


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