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Massey v. Berryhill

United States District Court, C.D. California

June 26, 2017

LESLIE MASSEY, Plaintiff
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          GAIL J. STANDISH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff Leslie Massey (“Plaintiff”) filed a complaint seeking review of Defendant Commissioner of Social Security's (“Commissioner”) denial of his application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). The parties filed consents to proceed before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge [Dkts. 11, 12] and briefs addressing disputed issues in the case [Dkt. 19 (“Pltf.'s Br.”) and Dkt. 22 (“Def.'s Br.”). 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 25, 2010, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB and SSI, alleging that he became disabled as of December 12, 2005. [Dkt. 15, Administrative Record (“AR”) 125-134.] The Commissioner denied his initial claim for benefits and then denied his claim upon reconsideration. [AR 77-83; 85-96.] On April 2, 2012, a hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Mary L. Everstein. [AR 44-70.] On April 13, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's request for benefits. [AR 23-33.] Plaintiff requested review from the Appeals Council, which denied review. [AR 1-6.]

         Plaintiff filed a civil action on October 17, 2013. United States Magistrate Judge Carla R. Woehrle remanded the case to the Commissioner for further proceedings on August 4, 2014. [AR 427-437 (Massey v. Colvin, CV 13-7353-CW, Dkt. 16).] Subsequently, on April 7, 2015 a second hearing was held before the same ALJ. [AR 371-395.] On May 28, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision again denying Plaintiff's request for benefits. [AR 321-339.] Plaintiff requested review from the Appeals Council, which denied review. Plaintiff now seeks review from this Court.

         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) 416.920(b)-(g)(1). At step one, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since December 12, 2005, the alleged onset date, through December 31, 2010, his date last insured. [AR 323.] At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: obesity, heel spurs, left shoulder impingement syndrome with degenerative changes, asthma controlled on medication, bipolar disorder, depressive disorder, NOS, anxiety disorder, NOS, and a history of polysubstance abuse in remission. [AR 324 (citing 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c) and 416.920(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 327 (citing 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925, and 416.926).]

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

[M]edium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(c) except the claimant is restricted to simple, routine tasks in a nonpublic environment that involves only incidental or superficial contact with the public. The claimant must avoid concentrated exposure to dust, fumes, and respiratory irritants.

[AR 328.] Applying this RFC, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was unable to perform his past relevant work, but determined that based on his age (44 years old) limited education, and ability to communicate in English, he could perform representative occupations such as hand packer (DOT 920.587-018), laundry worker (DOT 361.685-018), hospital food server (DOT 319.677-014), retail marker (DOT 209.587-034), and hotel/motel housekeeper (DOT 323.687-014) and, thus, is not disabled. [AR 333-334; 387-388.]

         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

         Plaintiff contends that the ALJ rejected the opinions of a treating psychiatrist and two consultative psychiatric examiners without stating legally sufficient reasons for doing so. [Pltf.'s Br. at 5-12.] As set forth below, the Court ...


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