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Eisenhart v. Berryhill

United States District Court, C.D. California

February 23, 2018

MICHELLE EISENHART, 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 filed a complaint against the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner” or “Defendant”) seeking review of the Commissioner's denial of Plaintiff's applications for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). The parties filed consents to proceed before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge [Dkts. 12, 13] and briefs addressing the disputed issues in the case [Dkt. 23 (“Pltf.'s Br.”), Dkt. 30 (“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 January 24, 2013 and February 28, 2013, Plaintiff filed applications for DIB and SSI, alleging that she became disabled as of October 29, 2012. [Dkt. 13, Administrative Record (“AR”) 83-83, 145-149.] The Commissioner denied her claim initially on July 19, 2013. [AR 62-71, 72-81.] On December 21, 2014, a hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Edward P. Schneeberger. [AR 32-61.] On April 29, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's claims. [AR 18-31.]

         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 met the insured status requirements through December 31, 2016 and has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since October 29, 2012, the alleged onset date. [AR 23-24.] At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from the severe impairments of fibromyalgia and obesity. [AR 24 (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 25-26 (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):

Full range of medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) and 416.967(c) in that claimant is limited to lift/carry 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently. She is further limited to standing/walking 6 hours and sitting for 6 hours in an 8-hour day.

[AR 24-27.] Applying this RFC, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is able to perform past relevant work as a medical biller coder and data entry operator and, thus, is not disabled. [AR 27.]

         Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ's decision, and on December 13, 2016, the Appeals Council denied review. [AR 1-7.] This action followed.

         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

         Two physicians rendered opinions about Plaintiff's mental limitations. A non-examining state agency consultant, Dr. Richard J. Milan, Jr., Ph.D., rendered his opinion in July 2013. [AR 62-66.] Subsequently, at the hearing, the ALJ ordered that a consultative psychologist evaluate Plaintiff. [AR 56.] On January 16, 2015, Dr. Rosa Colonna, Ph.D., a consultative examiner retained by the state agency, examined Plaintiff and prepared a report with her opinion. [AR 392-404.] Plaintiff's sole contention is that the ...


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