Cornelius v. Colvin

Filing 21

ORDER denying 14 Defendant's Motion to Remand. Plaintiff shall have to and including 11/18/13, to file an Opening Brief. Signed by Judge G Murray Snow on 10/17/13.(TLJ)

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1 WO 2 3 4 5 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 6 FOR THE DISTRICT OF ARIZONA 7 8 Kristoffer Shaun Cornelius, Plaintiff, 9 10 11 No. CV-13-00535-PHX-GMS ORDER v. Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, 12 Defendant. 13 Pending before the Court is Defendant’s Motion to Remand. (Doc. 14.) For the 14 15 reasons discussed below, the motion is denied. BACKGROUND 16 17 I. Procedural Background 18 Plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security 19 income on March 29, 2010, alleging disability beginning January 1, 2008. (R. at 30.) He 20 meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through September 30, 21 2014. (Id.) Plaintiff’s claims were denied both initially and upon reconsideration. (Id.) 22 Plaintiff then appealed to an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (Id.) The ALJ 23 conducted a hearing on the matter on November 29, 2011. (Id.) On January 4, 2012, the 24 ALJ applied the five-step sequential evaluation process found in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520 25 and concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled because his residual functional capacity 26 (“RFC”) allowed him to perform simple, unskilled work. (Id. at 34.) The Appeals 27 Council declined to review the decision (Id. at 2–7), and Plaintiff filed suit in this Court. 28 (Doc. 1.). Defendant then filed a Motion to Remand (Doc. 14), which has been fully 1 briefed. 2 II. Factual Background 3 Plaintiff applied for benefits due to attention deficient hyperactivity disorder, 4 depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic 5 stress disorder, and sleep deprivation. (R. at 85.) In analyzing the severity of Plaintiff’s 6 symptoms, the ALJ looked to Plaintiff’s medical records and to opinion evidence from 7 two physicians who examined Plaintiff at the request of the State agency and two of 8 Plaintiff’s treating physicians. (Id. at 35–39.) The ALJ further considered Plaintiff’s own 9 testimony regarding the severity of his symptoms and their impact on his ability to obtain 10 employment and remain employed. (Id. at 34–39.) The ALJ also considered the 11 testimony of vocational expert Kathryn Atha. (Id. at 40.) DISCUSSION 12 13 I. Legal Standard 14 In a claim seeking review of a denial of social security benefits, “[t]he court shall 15 have power to enter, upon the pleadings and transcript of the record, a judgment 16 affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, 17 with or without remanding the cause for a rehearing.” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). “If additional 18 proceedings can remedy defects in the original administrative proceeding, a social 19 security case should be remanded.” Marcia v. Sullivan, 900 F.2d 172, 176 (9th Cir. 20 1990). On the other hand, when “the question of whether [a claimant] is eligible for 21 benefits turns entirely on the credibility” of a plaintiff's testimony, and the district court 22 finds that the ALJ improperly discredited that testimony, remand for further proceedings 23 is inappropriate, and the court should instead remand for a calculation of benefits. Moisa 24 v. Barnhart, 367 F.3d 882, 887 (9th Cir. 2004). 25 II. Analysis 26 Defendant argues that the record here presents outstanding issues that must be 27 resolved. Defendant argues that the ALJ should be directed on remand to (1) give 28 additional consideration to the medical opinion of Dr. Steingard and specify reasons for -2- 1 the weight assigned to her opinion; (2) further evaluate Plaintiff’s RFC; and (3) obtain 2 additional vocational expert evidence in order to clarify the effect of Plaintiff’s RFC on 3 his occupational base. (Doc. 14 at 2.) However, Defendant fails to demonstrate good 4 cause to justify remanding this case for further proceedings. 5 The ALJ found that Dr. Steingard’s opinion was “rendered by a qualified, 6 objective acceptable medical source that considered the claimant’s subjective 7 complaints” and that “the rationale expressed by this consultant and the conclusions 8 reached are consistent with the treatment record, objective findings, opinion evidence, 9 and the medical evidence as a whole.” (R. at 37.) Accordingly, the ALJ afforded her 10 opinion significant weight. (Id.) Defendant now asserts that the ALJ incorporated some of 11 Dr. Steingard’s opinions into her ultimate RFC finding, but did not incorporate Dr. 12 Steingard’s opinion regarding Plaintiff’s persistence. Defendant states that the ALJ may 13 have intended to discount some of Dr. Steingard’s findings on this subject, but that the 14 ALJ failed to explicitly state this in her decision. Defendant would direct the ALJ to be 15 more specific in her consideration of Dr. Steingard’s opinions on remand. However, 16 nothing in the ALJ’s decision suggests any hesitance regarding the ALJ’s ultimate 17 decision to give significant weight to Dr. Steingard’s opinions. 18 Defendant further argues that the ALJ should have the opportunity on remand to 19 potentially reassess the Plaintiff’s RFC, and then obtain additional vocational expert 20 evidence on the effects of Plaintiff’s RFC on his occupational base, should that additional 21 testimony become relevant. (Doc. 15 at 4.) Defendant fails to show good cause for 22 affording the agency an additional opportunity to consider the same evidence the ALJ 23 already considered in her opinion, or to have the opportunity to obtain further vocational 24 expert evidence, beyond the evidence already provided by Kathryn Atha (R. at 74–81.) 25 IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED: 26 1. 27 /// 28 Defendant’s Motion to Remand (Doc. 14) is denied. /// -3- 1 2. 2 Opening Brief. 3 Plaintiff shall have to and including November 18, 2013, to file an Dated this 17th day of October, 2013. 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 -4-

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