Rivera v. CSS

Filing 23

FINAL JUDGMENT and ORDER Regarding Plaintiff's Social Security Complaint, signed by Magistrate Judge Erica P. Grosjean on 8/2/17. CASE CLOSED. (Gonzalez, R)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 SIMON PERAZA RIVERA, Plaintiff, 12 v. 13 14 Case No. 1:16-cv-00439-EPG FINAL JUDGMENT AND ORDER REGARDING PLAINTIFF’S SOCIAL SECURITY COMPLAINT COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, 15 Defendant. 16 17 This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff’s complaint for judicial review of an 18 unfavorable decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration regarding his 19 applications for supplemental security income and disability insurance benefits. The parties have 20 consented to entry of final judgment by the United States Magistrate Judge under the provisions 21 of 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) with any appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. (ECF Nos. 6, 22 8.) 23 At the hearing on August 2, 2017, the Court heard from the parties and, having reviewed 24 the record, administrative transcript, the briefs of the parties, and the applicable law, finds as 25 follows: 26 For the reasons announced by the Court on the record at the conclusion of the parties’ oral 27 argument on August 2, 2017, the Court finds that the decision of the Commissioner of Social 28 Security should be reversed and the case should be remanded for further proceedings. 1 1 The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) gave great weight to Raman Verma, M.D., a 2 3 consulting examiner. AR 17, 323-330. However, the ALJ refused to incorporate limitations into 4 claimant’s residual functional capacity found by Dr. Verma regarding: 1) a 15-minute rest period 5 for every hour of standing and walking; 2) periodic alternating of sitting and standing to relieve 6 pain/discomfort; and 3) occasional stooping, kneeling, crouching and crawling. AR 329. As 7 discussed at the August 2, 2017 hearing, the ALJ erred because the reasons offered by the ALJ to 8 reject Dr. Verma’s exertional limitations, however, are not specific, legitimate, and supported by 9 substantial evidence. Additionally, the ALJ erred by discrediting claimant’s testimony regarding his limitations 10 11 resulting from pain. “If the ALJ finds that the claimant's testimony as to the severity of her pain 12 and impairments is unreliable, the ALJ must make a credibility determination with findings 13 sufficiently specific to permit the court to conclude that the ALJ did not arbitrarily discredit 14 claimant's testimony.” Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 958 (9th Cir. 2002) (citing Bunnell v. 15 Sullivan, 947 F.2d 341, 345–46 (9th Cir.1991) (en banc)). The Court explained that, under 16 Thomas, it was appropriate for the ALJ to consider prior inconsistent statements about past use of 17 controlled substances as one factor in assessing the claimant’s credibility. See id. at 959. 18 However, the ALJ must evaluate that one factor in the context of other factors set forth in 19 Thomas. In the context of this case, the Court finds that Claimant’s past untruthfulness regarding 20 his drug and alcohol use, alone, was an insufficient basis to find that this testimony regarding the 21 extent of his pain and impairment was not credible. Accordingly, the ALJ’s findings regarding 22 the claimant’s testimony were not sufficiently specific and supported to warrant discrediting the 23 claimant’s testimony regarding pain limitations.1 On remand, the ALJ shall incorporate the exertional limitations found by Dr. Verma into 24 25 the claimant’s residual functional capacity finding, credit the testimony of the claimant regarding 26 1 27 28 It is noted that the Court is remanding based on the ALJ’s failure to incorporate the limitations found by Dr. Verma, who found claimant to be credible and likely incorporated his findings based on both his objective findings and claimant’s subjective statements. Therefore, it appears likely that no additional limitations need to be added to the residual functional capacity finding based on the ALJ’s error in assessing claimant’s credibility. 2 1 his pain limitations as true, and consider the claimant’s advanced age in determining whether the 2 claimant is disabled. If necessary, the ALJ may hear additional testimony from a vocational 3 expert to reconsider its conclusion at step five. 4 Accordingly, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff’s appeal from the administrative decision of 5 the Commissioner of Social Security and the case is remanded to the Social Security 6 Administration. The Clerk of the Court is DIRECTED to enter judgment in favor of Plaintiff 7 Robert Kenneth Odom and against Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of 8 Social Security. 9 IT IS SO ORDERED. 10 11 Dated: August 2, 2017 /s/ UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 3

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