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Kimberly N. v. Saul

United States District Court, C.D. California

October 18, 2019

KIMBERLY N.,[1] Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M.SAUL,[2] Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER REVERSING DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER AND REMANDING FOR FURTHER ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS

          MARIA A. AUDERO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         On August 31, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Complaint seeking review of the Social Security Commissioner's final decision denying her application for a period of disability and Disability Insurance Benefits pursuant to Title II of the Social Security Act. This matter is fully briefed and ready for decision. For the reasons discussed below, the Commissioner's final decision is reversed, and this matter is remanded for further administrative proceedings.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On August 16, 2015, Plaintiff filed an application for a period of disability and Disability Insurance Benefits, alleging disability beginning on May 15, 2015. (Administrative Record [AR] 22, 62, 74.) Plaintiff alleged disability due to "carpal tunnel syndrome - bilateral; arthritis (hand) - bilateral; trigger finger - right hand; acute anxiety disorder; PTSD; depression." (AR 74.) After the application was denied initially and on reconsideration, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"). (AR 99-100.)

         On October 6, 2017, the assigned ALJ held an administrative hearing. (AR 40-61.) Plaintiff appeared with counsel, and the ALJ heard testimony from Plaintiff and a vocational expert. (Id.)

         In a decision issued on October 19, 2017, the ALJ denied Plaintiffs claim after making the following findings pursuant to the Commissioner's five-step evaluation. (AR 22-35.) Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity during the period from her alleged disability onset date of May 15, 2015 through her date last insured of June 30, 2017. (AR 24.) Plaintiff had "severe" impairments consisting of "bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, bilateral trigger finger, depression, and anxiety." (AR 25.) Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the requirements of one of the impairments from the Commissioner's Listing of Impairments. (Id.) She had a residual functional capacity to perform "light work . . . except her ability to perform fine manipulation and gross manipulation is limited to frequent (but not constant or repetitive), she must avoid concentrated exposure to excessive vibration and temperature extremes, and can perform detailed but not complex tasks." (AR 27.) Plaintiff could perform her past relevant work as a retail sales clerk. (AR 33.) In the alternative, Plaintiff could perform other work in the national economy, in the occupations of cashier II, ticket taker, and storage facility rental clerk. (AR 34.) Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled as defined by the Social Security Act. (AR 1697.)

         On July 20, 2018, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiffs request for review. (AR 1-6.) Thus, the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner.

         DISPUTED ISSUES

         The parties raise the following disputed issues:

1. Whether the ALJ properly considered Plaintiffs testimony regarding her pain and limitations.
2. Whether the ALJ properly considered the opinion of Dr. Michael Rubinstein, a treating physician.
3. Whether the ALJ properly considered Plaintiffs hand limitation.
4. Whether the ALJ properly considered the state agency physicians' opinions concerning Plaintiffs mental limitations.
5. Whether the ALJ properly considered the opinion of Dr. Zarrabi, a treating physician.
6. Whether the ALJ properly considered the lay witness statement of ...

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