United States District Court, C.D. California
TERESA L. COX, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF REMAND
CHARLES F. EICK, Magistrate Judge.
Pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. section 405(g), IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiff's and Defendant's motions for summary judgment are denied and this matter is remanded for further administrative action consistent with this Opinion.
Plaintiff filed a Complaint on March 5, 2014, seeking review of the denial of social security disability benefits. The parties filed a consent to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge on April 3, 2014.
Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment on August 6, 2014. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on November 5, 2014. The Court has taken both motions under submission without oral argument. See L.R. 7-15; "Order, " filed March 14, 2014.
BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION
Plaintiff asserts disability since February 2, 2010, based on alleged physical and mental impairments (Administrative Record ("A.R.") 160-70, 183). An Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") examined the medical record and heard testimony from Plaintiff and a vocational expert (A.R. 10-379). The ALJ found Plaintiff has severe degenerative disc disease, obesity, diabetes, asthma, obstructive sleep apnea, and bipolar disorder, but retains the residual functional capacity to perform a limited range of sedentary work (A.R. 12, 14). In accordance with the vocational expert's testimony, the ALJ also found Plaintiff can perform work as an "address clerk" or "bench hand, " and therefore is not disabled (A.R. 20-21; see also A.R. 52-54 (vocational expert testimony)). The Appeals Council denied review (A.R. 1-3).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Under 42 U.S.C. section 405(g), this Court reviews the Administration's decision to determine if: (1) the Administration's findings are supported by substantial evidence; and (2) the Administration used correct legal standards. See Carmickle v. Commissioner, 533 F.3d 1155, 1159 (9th Cir. 2008); Hoopai v. Astrue, 499 F.3d 1071, 1074 (9th Cir. 2007); see also Brewes v. Commissioner of Social Sec. Admin., 682 F.3d 1157, 1161 (9th Cir. 2012). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (citation and quotations omitted); see also Widmark v. Barnhart, 454 F.3d 1063, 1066 (9th Cir. 2006).
Plaintiff contends that the ALJ materially erred in the evaluation of the medical opinion evidence. For the reasons discussed below, the Court agrees. Remand is appropriate.
I. Summary of the Relevant Medical Record.
Plaintiff reported a history of cervical spine pain following a car accident in 1993 (A.R. 33, 228). On January 18, 2009, Plaintiff went to the Desert Valley Hospital with complaints of right arm pain and shoulder pain from a recent fall at work (A.R. 313-25). Plaintiff's treating doctor ordered her off work (A.R. 323). Plaintiff was not released back to work until July 22, 2009 (A.R. 241).
On August 26, 2009, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Rajiv Puri examined Plaintiff and found she had a limited range of motion in the cervical spine with left arm pain, limited left shoulder motion in abduction due to impingement, slightly decreased sensation in the C5 and C6 dermatomes on the left hand, and hypoactive reflexes on both sides (A.R. 229). Plaintiff complained of worsening pain in the neck and left upper extremity (A.R. 229). Dr. Puri diagnosed degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine with radicular pain and numbness in the left arm, and calcific tendinitis of the left shoulder for which he gave Plaintiff a cortisone injection (A.R. 229; see also A.R. 230 (radiology report)). On September 16, 2009, Dr. Puri reviewed a cervical spine MRI showing degenerative disc disease, especially at C4-5, C5-6, and C6-7, causing foraminal stenosis, confirmed by x-rays (A.R 228; see also A.R. 231-32 (cervical spine MRI dated September 9, 2009)). Dr. Puri ...