United States District Court, C.D. California
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
SUZANNE H. SEGAL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Alicia Quintana (“Plaintiff”) seeks review of the
final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (“the Agency, ” “the
Commissioner”) denying her application for Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”). The parties
consented, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), to the
jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate
Judge. For the reasons stated below, the decision of the
Commissioner is REVERSED and REMANDED for further
filed an application for Disability Insurance
(“DIB”) on February 2, 2012. (Administrative
Record (“AR”) 18). Plaintiff alleged disability
beginning on April 1, 2011. (AR 160). Plaintiff’s
application was initially denied on April 30, 2011, and
denied on reconsideration on October 31, 2012. (AR 96-99,
87-94). On November 14, 2012, Plaintiff requested a hearing
before an administrative law judge. (AR 105-06). A hearing
was held before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
Richard A. Urbin on August 8, 2013 (“the ALJ
Hearing”), at which Plaintiff was represented by
counsel and testified. (AR 44-47). The ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision on December 13, 2013 finding that
Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social
Security Act. (AR 38-51). Plaintiff requested review of the
ALJ’s decision on January 6, 2014, which the Appeals
Council denied on April 15, 2015. (AR 1-10). As a result, the
ALJ’s decision became the final decision of the
Commissioner. Plaintiff filed this action on October 6, 2015.
was born on June 23, 1966. (AR 78). Plaintiff is married and
has four children, the youngest of which was born in February
2011. (AR 50, 63). Plaintiff is a high school graduate and
attended some college. (AR 50). Prior to her alleged
disability, Plaintiff worked as an insurance biller from 1996
to 1997, a receptionist from 1998 to 2001, an office manager
from 2003 to 2005, and again as an insurance biller from 2006
to February 2011. (AR 170-74). Plaintiff identified April 1,
2011 as the onset date of her disability. (AR 78). Plaintiff
testified that she suffers from depression, social anxiety,
difficulty sleeping, numbness on her right side, back pain,
pain in her right knee, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
(AR 57-69). Plaintiff also testified that she was overweight
at 207 pounds. (AR 67).
Medical History And Treating Doctors’
Physical and Mental State
Fernandez, M.D. - Primary Care Physician
20, 2011, Dr. Fernandez examined Plaintiff and assessed her
lower back pain, knee joint pain, anxiety, insomnia,
diabetes, and recurring major depression. (AR 243-44). Dr.
Fernandez referred Plaintiff to physical therapy for her knee
pain, instructed Plaintiff to manage her diabetes, and
advised Plaintiff to continue her depression/anxiety
medication. (AR 244). On July 28, 2011, Dr. Fernandez noted
similar complaints from Plaintiff. (AR 243-47). Dr. Fernandez
changed Plaintiff’s depression medication from
Wellbutrin to Celexa because Wellbutrin reportedly made
Plaintiff ill. (AR 245). On December 12, 2011, Dr. Fernandez
noted that Plaintiff had “eruption” of acne due
to stress. (AR 251). Dr. Fernandez also addressed
Plaintiff’s lower back pain and cautioned Plaintiff to
“avoid heavy lifting” and to take pain medication
as directed. (AR 251).
March 30, 2012, Dr. Fernandez examined Plaintiff’s
x-rays and found that there was a loss of the lordotic curve,
possible small osteophyte,  and possible
scoliosis. (AR 257). Plaintiff also complained of
intermittent numbness in her neck with spasms. (AR 257). On
September 26, 2012, Dr. Fernandez noted that Plaintiff was
taking Xanax and Citalopram for depression/anxiety and
increased her dosage of Citalopram because Plaintiff was
“still emotional.” (AR 273). On December 4, 2012,
Dr. Fernandez noted that Plaintiff started taking Cymbalta
and Abilify for depression/anxiety and that she was
“still emotional.” (AR 301).
Physical Health Evidence
Jennifer Shields - Registered Physical Therapist
March 29, 2012, Plaintiff began a series of physical therapy
sessions with Jennifer Shields, a registered physical
therapist. (AR 260-61). Plaintiff’s chief complaint was
lower back pain, reported her pain level at “7”
on a scale of one to ten. (AR 260). Ms. Shields noted
“poor” posture in both standing and seated
positions. (AR 260). Ms. Shields recommended a six-week plan
to decrease Plaintiff’s pain as well as improve
functioning level and posture. (AR 261).
again attended physical therapy on April 10, 2012, and
reported a pain level of “4-6.” (AR 284). On
April 20, 2012, Plaintiff reported a pain level of
“6.” (AR 282). On June 6, 2012, Plaintiff
complained that her “neck hurts the most” and
reported a pain level of “8.” (AR 281). On August
28, 2012, Plaintiff was discharged from the physical therapy
sessions. (AR 280). The sessions concluded with
“[g]oals partially met, ” with Plaintiff
reporting a pain level of “4.” (AR 280).
Mental Health Evidence
first visited Dr. Simonds on June 13, 2013. (AR 328-32).
Plaintiff told Dr. Simonds that she felt “somewhat
socially isolated at this time.” (AR 329). Dr. Simonds
increased Plaintiff’s dosage of Cymbalta and noted that
she was tolerating that medication well. (AR 331). On the
same day, Dr. Simonds filled out a “Medical Source
Statement” for internal use by the Agency. (AR 359).
Dr. Simonds indicated, via check-boxes, “[m]arkedly
limited” functioning in: Plaintiff’s ability to
relate and interact with co-workers; her ability to deal with
the public; her ability to maintain concentration for
two-hour increments, and; her ability to withstand the
stresses of typical eight-hour work days. (AR 359). Dr.
Simonds indicated “[m]oderately limited”
functioning in: Plaintiff’s ability to carry out
complex job instructions; her ability to carry out simple job
instructions, and; her ability to handle funds. (AR 359).
24, 2013, Plaintiff reported that her mood symptoms were
“improving somewhat” and that she was satisfied
with her new Cymbalta dosage. (AR 364). Plaintiff told Dr.
Simonds that her energy and motivation were higher than
before, and that she was a “little less”
frustrated and anxious. (AR 364).
Romeo L. Isidro, M.D.
February, 28, 2013, Dr. Isidro, a psychiatrist, examined
Plaintiff. (AR 356-57). Dr. Isidro’s handwritten notes
indicate that Plaintiff complained of crying spells, lack of
energy, and trouble sleeping. (AR 356). Dr. Isidro noted that
Plaintiff suffered from major depression. (AR 357). Dr.
Isidro concluded that Plaintiff should “restart”
Cymbalta and continue with psychotherapy. (AR 357).
cancelled an appointment with Dr. Isidro on April 2, 2013 and
left before being seen on April 23, 2013. (AR 355). On May
21, 2013, Plaintiff was again examined by Dr. Isidro and
reported that she wasn’t “cry[ing] every day
anymore.” (AR 355).
Examining, Non-Treating Doctors’ Opinions
Independent Medical Evaluation - Physical Medicine
Jorge Minor, M.D.
3, 2013, Dr. Minor, a physical medicine and pain specialist,
interviewed and examined Plaintiff. (AR 433-53). During her
interview, Plaintiff described her pain as “moderate
most of the time, ” and that her typing ability had
been “moderately change[d]” due to her current
physical issues. (AR 436, 437). Upon examination, Dr. Minor
found that Plaintiff’s motor strength was
“5/5” on all of her upper and lower extremities.
(AR 447). Dr. Minor diagnosed Plaintiff with eleven
conditions including major depression, postpartum depression,
eating disorder, morbid obesity, history of knee contusion
and non-compliance with medical care. (AR ...