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Garcia v. Colvin

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

May 27, 2015

ERMELINDA GARCIA, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

DOUGLAS F. McCORMICK, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Ermelinda Garcia appeals the Commissioner's final decision denying her applications for Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance benefits. For the reasons discussed below, the Court concludes that the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") erred in determining that Plaintiff was able to perform her past relevant work as a hospital beautician. The Commissioner's decision is therefore reversed and the matter is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed her applications for benefits on January 26, 2012, alleging disability beginning March 10, 2010. Administrative Record ("AR") 9. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the severe impairments of bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, obesity, degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, and degenerative joint disease of the right shoulder. AR 11.

At the administrative hearing, the ALJ called a vocational expert ("VE") to testify about what work Plaintiff could perform given her impairments and functional limitations. AR 33-35. The ALJ gave the VE a hypothetical based on what the ALJ determined was Plaintiff's residual functional capacity ("RFC"):

Q: Number 1, I want you to assume a hypothetical individual with the claimant's education, training, and work experience who is limited to occasionally lift and carry 20 pounds, frequently lift and carry 10. Stand and walk, with normal breaks, for a total of six of an eight-hour day; sit, with normal breaks, for a total of six of an eight-hour day. Postural limitations would be all occasional. No climbing ladders, ropes, and scaffolds. And we'll limit to occasional for right overhead reaching, which is the right - and the right arm is the dominant arm. Okay? So based upon just hypothetical 1, would the claimant be able to perform past work?
A: Yes, Your Honor.
Q: Okay, now hypothetical 2's going to be the same as hypothetical 1, but we're also going to add frequent for gross and fine manipulation. Now if we add that limitation, would the claimant be able to perform past work?
A: I just want to double-check the requirements. Yes, Your Honor.

AR 33-34. The ALJ relied upon the VE's testimony in concluding that Plaintiff was not disabled because she could perform her past relevant work as a hospital beautician. AR 17.

II.

ISSUES PRESENTED

The parties dispute whether the ALJ erred in (1) failing to properly consider the opinion of Plaintiff's treating physician; (2) relying upon the VE's testimony in concluding that Plaintiff was capable of performing her past relevant work at step four of the sequential evaluation process; and (3) ...


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