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Anderson v. Berryhill

United States District Court, C.D. California

April 30, 2018

JESSICA ANDERSON, 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

         On April 26, 2017, Plaintiff Jessica Anderson (“Plaintiff”) filed a Complaint seeking review of a decision by Defendant, the Acting Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”), denying her application for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). On August 7, 2017, the Commissioner filed an Answer to the Complaint and lodged the Administrative Record (“AR”). On September 8, 2017, the Commissioner lodged a supplement to the AR. The parties filed consents to proceed before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge [Dkts. 11 & 23] and briefs addressing disputed issues in the case [Dkt. 18 (“Pl. Br.”), Dkt. 21 (“Def. Br.”), & Dkt. 22 (“Pl. Rep.”)]. The Court has taken the parties' briefing under submission without oral argument. For the reasons that follow, the Court finds that this matter should be remanded for additional proceedings.

         II. ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION UNDER REVIEW

         On September 10, 2012, Plaintiff filed an application for SSI, alleging disability since May 1, 2003, due to depression, anxiety, personality disorder, learning disorder, history of seizures, low back pain with radiculopathy, and obesity. [AR 22, 104-11, 130, 174.] Plaintiff's application was denied initially and on reconsideration. [AR 74-77, 83-87.] Hearings were held before Administrative Law Judge Mary L. Everstine (“the ALJ”) on October 28, 2014 and May 19, 2015. [AR 42-48, 670-86.]

         On June 2, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision applying the sequential evaluation process to find Plaintiff not disabled. [AR 22-34]; see 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(b)-(g)(1). At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the date of her application, September 10, 2012. [AR 24.] At step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: morbid obesity, seizure disorder well controlled on medication, lumbar degenerative disc disease without stenosis, borderline intellectual functioning, and a history of methamphetamine dependence in remission. [Id.] At step three, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's conditions did not meet or equal any of the impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. [AR 27.] Next, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform medium work (20 C.F.R. § 416.967(c)), with the following limitations:

[Plaintiff] is limited to occasional climbing of ropes, ladders, and scaffolds and occasional balancing. [Plaintiff] is restricted to frequent climbing of stairs or ramps and frequent stooping, kneeling, crouching, and crawling. [Plaintiff] cannot work around unprotected heights. [Plaintiff] cannot operate hazardous or moving machinery. [Plaintiff] is limited to simple, routine tasks.

[AR 28.] At step four, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff does not have any past relevant work. [AR 32.] At step five, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff could perform jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy. [AR 33.]

         The Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's decision on October 14, 2016. [AR 7-9.] This action followed.

         Plaintiff now raises the following issues challenging the ALJ's findings and determination of non-disability:

1. The ALJ improperly assessed and rejected the opinion of the examining psychologist.
2. The ALJ's RFC and step five finding contain legal errors and are not supported by substantial evidence.
3. The ALJ improperly assessed and rejected the third party ...

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