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Rios v. Berryhill

United States District Court, C.D. California

April 21, 2017

PETRA RIOS, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [1]Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.



         Pursuant to Sentence 4 of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that this matter be remanded for further administrative action consistent with this Opinion.


         On June 6, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Complaint seeking review of the denial of her application for Disability Insurance Benefits. (Docket Entry No. 1). The parties have consented to proceed before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge. (Docket Entry Nos. 11, 13). On October 14, 2016, Defendant filed an Answer along with the Administrative Record (“AR”). (Docket Entry Nos. 16-17). On January 19, 2017, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation (“Joint Stip.”) setting forth their respective positions regarding Plaintiff's claims. (Docket Entry No. 18).

         The Court has taken this matter under submission without oral argument. See C.D. Cal. L.R. 7-15; “Order Re: Procedures In Social Security Case, ” filed June 7, 2016 (Docket Entry No. 9).


         On March 5, 2013, Plaintiff, formerly employed as a garment labeler and as a mail room person in a cosmetic warehouse (see AR 53-54, 204, 213-14, 235-36), filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits alleging an inability to work because of a disability since March 12, 2009. (See AR 192-93). On December 2, 2014, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), Helen E. Hesse, heard testimony from Plaintiff (represented by counsel), and vocational expert Susan Allison. A Spanish interpreter was present for Plaintiff. (See AR 39-72). On February 11, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's application. (See AR 20-29). After determining that Plaintiff had severe impairments -- ”degenerative disc disease of the lumbar and cervical spine; bilateral shoulder impingement syndrome, status post arthroscopy with manipulation for frozen shoulder; chronic pain syndrome; mild depression; bilateral knee chondromalacia; and thoracic outlet syndrome” (AR 22-24) --, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”)[2] to perform light work[3] with the following limitations: sitting, standing and walking for 4 hours in an 8-hour workday with normal breaks; lifting and carrying 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frquently; climbing stairs, bending, balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, or crawling occasionally; precluded from climbing ropes, ladders, or scaffolding; performing gross and fine manipulation frequently, but not continuously; peforming overhead reaching with both upper extremities occcasionally; performing moderately complex tasks with Specific Vocational Preparation (“SVP”) 3 to 4 involving no hypervigilence; precluded from being in charge of safety operation of others; and precluded from intense interpersonal interactions such as taking complaints or encounters similar to those experienced by law enforcement or emergency personnel. (AR 24-29). Finding that Plaintiff was capable of performing past relevant work as a marker/tagger as actually performed and as generally performed, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. (AR 29).

         Plaintiff requested that the Appeals Council review the ALJ's Decision. (See AR 9-13). The request was denied on April 19, 2016. (See AR 1-5). The ALJ's Decision then became the final decision of the Commissioner, allowing this Court to review the decision. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c).


         Plaintiff alleges that the ALJ erred in: (1) failing to give proper weight to Plaintiff's treating physicians and evidence favorable to Plaintiff; (2) finding that Plaintiff was literate in English; and (3) finding that Plaintiff was not fully credible with respect to her testimony regarding her subjective pain and limitations. (See Joint Stip. at 4-9, 16-27, 33).


         After consideration of the record as a whole, the Court finds that Plaintiff's first claim of error (in part) warrants a remand for further consideration. Since the Court is remanding the matter based on Plaintiff's first claim of error (in part), the Court will not address Plaintiff's first claim of error (in part), second claim of error, or third claim of error.

         A. The ALJ Did Not Properly Reject the Opinion of Plaintiff's Treating Physician, Lawrence Miller, M.D., and Examining Physician Ernest Bagner, III, M.D.

         Plaintiff asserts that the ALJ failed to provide specific and legitimate reasons for rejecting the opinions of Plaintiff's treating physicians, Drs. Miller, Schmidt, Kahn, and Larsen. Plaintiff further asserts that the ALJ failed to proved a proper reason for rejecting the opinion of examining physician Dr. Bagner (See Joint Stip. at 4-9, 16- 17).[4] Defendant asserts that the ALJ provided valid reasons for giving ...

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