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Forkush v. Berryhill

United States District Court, C.D. California

April 12, 2017

ANTHONY KEITH FORKUSH, Plaintiff
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL[1], Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          GAIL J. STANDISH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff Anthony Keith Forkush (“Plaintiff”) filed a complaint seeking review of Defendant Commissioner of Social Security's (“Commissioner”) denial of his application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”). The parties filed consents to proceed before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge [Dkts. 10, 12] and briefs addressing disputed issues in the case [Dkt. 23 (“Pltf.'s Br.”); Dkt. 24 (“Def.'s Br.”); Dkt. 25 (Pltf.'s Reply)]. The Court has taken the parties' briefing under submission without oral argument. For the reasons discussed below, the Court finds that this matter should be remanded for further proceedings.

         II. ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION UNDER REVIEW

         On February 15, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB, alleging that he became disabled as of April 10, 2012. [Dkt. 19, Administrative Record (“AR”) 140, 315-316.] The Commissioner denied his initial claim for benefits and then denied his claim upon reconsideration. [AR 205-208; 212-216.] On September 8, 2014, a hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Sally Reason. [AR 87-139.] On October 8, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's request for benefits. [AR 178-198.] Plaintiff requested review from the Appeals Council, and in January 2015, the Appeals Council remanded the claim, finding that the ALJ did not adequately evaluate all opinion evidence and did not address the inconsistencies in the medical expert's testimony. [AR 199-204.]

         Subsequently, on June 24, 2015, a second hearing was held before the ALJ. [AR 45-86.] On September 14, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision again denying Plaintiff's request for benefits. [AR 15-44.] Plaintiff requested review from the Appeals Council on October 7, 2015, but the Appeals Council denied his request for review on March 16, 2016. [AR 1-6.]

         Applying the five-step sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b)-(g)(1). At step one, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 10, 2012, the alleged onset date. [AR 20.] At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: obesity, degenerative disc disease, generalized anxiety disorder, depression, intermittent explosive disorder, and polysubstance abuse (in remission). [Id. (citing 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c).] Next, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments. [AR 438 (citing 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, and 404.1526).]

         The ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following residual functional capacity (RFC):

[L]ight work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except he could occasionally balance, bend, climb, crawl, crouch, kneel, and stop but could not work ladders, heights, or moving machinery. He would need to avoid public contact entirely and could have only minimal or limited interaction of a superficial nature with coworkers or supervisors. The claimant would be able to perform simple tasks.

[AR 26.] Applying this RFC, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was unable to perform his past relevant work, but determined that based on his age (51 years old), high school education, and ability to communicate in English, he could perform representative occupations such as cleaner, housekeeping (DOT 323.687-014) and mail clerk (DOT 209.687-026) and, thus, is not disabled. [AR 36-38.]

         III. GOVERNING STANDARD

         Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the Court reviews the Commissioner's decision to determine if: (1) the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence; and (2) the Commissioner used correct legal standards. See Carmickle v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 533 F.3d 1155, 1159 (9th Cir. 2008); Hoopai v. Astrue, 499 F.3d 1071, 1074 (9th Cir. 2007). 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) (internal citation and quotations omitted); see also Hoopai, 499 F.3d at 1074.

         IV. DISCUSSION

         A. The ALJ's Step Two ...


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