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Quigley v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 23, 2019

ALLEN M. QUIGLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER

          CAROLYN K. DELANEY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying an application for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (“Act”). The parties have consented to Magistrate Judge jurisdiction to conduct all proceedings in the case, including the entry of final judgment. For the reasons discussed below, the court will grant plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and deny the Commissioner's cross-motion for summary judgment.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, born in 1968, applied on July 16, 2014 for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits, alleging disability beginning June 5, 2012. Administrative Transcript (“AT”) 22, 182. Plaintiff alleged he was unable to work due to back injury, right hip injury, severe depression, and traumatic brain injury. AT 112. In a decision dated January 12, 2017, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled.[1] AT 22-41. The ALJ made the following findings (citations to 20 C.F.R. omitted):

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2017.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since July 5, 2012, the application date.
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine; degenerative joint disease of the right hip; degenerative joint disease of the right knee; history of traumatic brain injury (TBI); migraines; tinnitus; and mental impairments variously described as depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform all work-related activities, except: he is able to lift and carry ten pounds frequently and twenty pounds occasionally; he is able to sit for about six hours of an eight hour workday; he is able to stand and/or walk for about six hours of an eight hour workday; he is precluded from climbing ladders, ropes, and scaffolds; he is precluded from exposure to hazards (unprotected heights, hazardous machinery, dangerous equipment, and so forth); he is limited to occasional climbing of ramps and stairs; he is limited to occasional stooping, kneeling, crouching, and crawling; he should avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold; he is able to perform simple, repetitive tasks; he is limited to no more than occasional interaction with supervisors, coworkers, and the public.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work.
7. The claimant was born on XX/XX/1968 and was 43 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the date the application was filed.
8. The claimant has at least a high-school education and is able to communicate in English.
9. Transferability of job skills is not an issue in this case because using the Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding that the claimant is ‘not disabled' whether or not the claimant has transferable job skills.
10. Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform.

AT 24-40.

         ISSUES PRESENTED

         Plaintiff argues that the ALJ committed the following errors in finding plaintiff not disabled: (1) the ALJ improperly rejected the opinion of examining neurologist Dr. Chao; (2) the ALJ improperly rejected plaintiff's testimony; (3) the ALJ improperly rejected lay witness testimony; and (4) the ALJ's Step Five finding is not supported by substantial evidence.

         LEGAL ...


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