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Miskell v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 1, 2017

JIMMY LEE MISKELL, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S SOCIAL SECURITY COMPLAINT (DOC. 1)

          SHEILA K. OBERTO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         On January 21, 2016, Plaintiff Jimmy Lee Miskell (“Plaintiff”) filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the “Commissioner” or “Defendant”) denying his applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. (Doc. 1.) Plaintiff filed his opening brief (“Plaintiff's Motion”) on November 19, 2016, (Doc. 17), and Defendant filed their Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment (“Defendant's Motion”) on December 16, 2016, (Doc. 18). The matter is currently before the Court on the parties' briefs, which were submitted without oral argument.[1]

         For the reasons provided herein, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion, (Doc. 17), DENIES Defendant's Motion, (Doc. 18), REVERSES the final decision of the Commissioner, and REMANDS this matter for further proceedings.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following includes the pertinent medical and procedural background for this matter. Plaintiff was born on July 11, 1963, and is currently 53 years old. (Administrative Record (“AR”) 210.)

         On May 3, 2013, Plaintiff filed his claims for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. (AR 163-65, 171-80.) In these claims, Plaintiff alleges that he became disabled on January 1, 2010. (AR 163 & 171.) Plaintiff stated that the following conditions limit his ability to work: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, thyroid problems, and flat feet. (AR 213.) The Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's claims initially on July 18, 2013, (AR 104-13), and again on reconsideration on October 21, 2013, (AR 115-26). Plaintiff then requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on December 2, 2013. (AR 127-28.)

         On March 26, 2015, the ALJ held a hearing regarding Plaintiff's claims (the “Hearing”). (See AR 36-55.) Plaintiff was not represented by counsel at this Hearing. (See AR 38.)

         During the Hearing, the ALJ stated the following:

Okay, then what we'll probably do is [Plaintiff] went to one of our doctors back in July 2013. I'm going to send [Plaintiff] to another one simply so I can have some more updated records . . . for [Plaintiff]. All right, so we're going to send [Plaintiff] to an internal med guy, and we'll see if I can get a breathing test done on [Plaintiff], a pulmonary function, since that seems to be one of [Plaintiff's] big ones.

(AR 45-46.) Additionally, the ALJ noted the following at the conclusion of the Hearing:

Okay, so what's going to happen now is [Plaintiff] should get an appointment in the mail to go see one of our doctors again, and then once I get the report back from that, then I'll take a look at that and decide what to do with [Plaintiff] as far as making a decision . . . .

(AR 54.)

         Following the Hearing, Plaintiff underwent pulmonary testing at Valley Health Resources in Fresno, CA on April 24, 2015. (See AR 305-08.) The results of this additional test (the “April 2015 Test Results”) provide “FEV1” values between 1.42 and 1.64. (AR 306.) The April 2015 Test Results also state that Plaintiff's “FEV1 is 42% [p]redicted” and his “[l]ung [a]ge is 99.” (Id.)

         On the “Interpretation” line, the April 2015 Test Results state the following: “No interpretation; Poor test quality!” (Id.) On the next line, the April 2015 Test Results provide the following in bold font: “Caution: Maneuvers Not Reproducible - Interpret With Care.” (Id.)

         In a decision dated June 19, 2015, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. (AR 19- 35.) In the decision, the ALJ conducted the five-step sequential evaluation analysis set forth in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. (See AR 23-30.) At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff “has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 1, 2010, the alleged onset date.” (AR 24.) At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff ...


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