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Solis v. Colvin

United States District Court, C.D. California

May 26, 2015

ALEX SOLIS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting 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.

PROCEEDINGS

Plaintiff filed a complaint on November 13, 2014, seeking review of the Commissioner's denial of benefits. The parties consented to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge on December 29, 2014. Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment on April 14, 2015. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on May 14, 2015. The Court has taken the motions under submission without oral argument. See L.R. 7-15; "Order, " filed November 13, 2014.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, a former clerk, painter and housekeeper, asserts disability since March 8, 2006, based on exertional and non-exertional impairments (Administrative Record ("A.R.") 23, 71-92, 189). The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") found Plaintiff suffers from several severe impairments, but retains the residual functional capacity to perform a limited range of light work (A.R. 25-26). In defining Plaintiff's functional capacity, the ALJ purported to adopt the opinions of Dr. Gregory Lercel, Plaintiff's treating orthopedist (A.R. 29). The ALJ stated:

I have given great weight to the opinion of Dr. Lercel. He is the claimant's attending physician. He is a specialist in orthopedics. His opinion is supported by his course of treatment and objective findings contained in his progress notes.... I have incorporated his findings into the claimant's maximum sustained residual functional capacity.... I have adopted the exertional and non-exertional limits as endorsed by attending orthopedic physician Lercel (A.R. 29).

In fact, for reasons nowhere specifically explained in the ALJ's decision, the ALJ did not adopt certain of Dr. Lercel's opinions regarding Plaintiff's functional limitations, including Dr. Lercel's opinions that Plaintiff would have to shift positions at will, walk for 10 minutes after every 90 minutes of work, and be absent from work approximately one day per month (Compare A.R. 26 (the residual functional capacity defined by the ALJ) with A.R. 437-38 (the opinions of Dr. Lercel)).[1]

The ALJ determined that Plaintiff could not perform his past relevant work (A.R. 29). In reliance on the testimony of a vocational expert, however, the ALJ identified other jobs performable by a person having the residual functional capacity the ALJ found to exist (A.R. 30-31, 92-93). The ALJ therefore denied disability benefits (A.R. 31). The Appeals Council denied review (A.R. 5-7).

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, 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).

If the evidence can support either outcome, the court may not substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ. But the Commissioner's decision cannot be affirmed simply by isolating a specific quantum of supporting evidence. Rather, a court must consider the record as a whole, weighing both evidence that supports and evidence that detracts from the [administrative] conclusion.

Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th Cir. 1999) (citations and ...


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