United States District Court, D. Arizona
Leslie A. Bowman United States Magistrate Judge
The plaintiff filed this action for review of the final decision of the Commissioner for Social Security pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
The Magistrate Judge presides over this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) having received the written consent of both parties. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 73; (Doc. 9)
The court finds the final decision of the Commissioner must be reversed. The ALJ did not provide clear and convincing reasons for discounting the opinion of Bailey's treating physician. See Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1279 (9* Cir. 1996). The case will be remanded for payment of benefits.
Bailey filed his application for disability insurance benefits in August of 2011. (Tr. 24, 169) He alleged disability beginning December 2, 2010, due to “arthritis in neck, degenerative disc disease.” (Tr. 169, 189, 193)
His claim was denied initially (Tr. 113-115) and upon reconsideration (Tr. 118-120). Bailey requested review and appeared with counsel at a hearing before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) George W. Reyes on January 15, 2013. (Tr. 57) In his decision, dated February 8, 2013, the ALJ found Bailey was not disabled. (Tr. 32) Bailey appealed, but the Appeals Council denied review making the decision of the ALJ the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-5) Bailey subsequently filed this action appealing the Commissioner’s final decision. (Doc. 1)
Claimant’s Work History and Medical History
Bailey was born in February of 1952. (Tr. 189) He graduated from college in 1988. (Tr. 194) From 1992 to December of 2010, Bailey worked as a controller at a wholesale auto auction business. (Tr. 194, 204) In that job, he had to walk or stand for one hour per day and sit for eight hours per day. (Tr. 205) He lifted objects weighing less than 10 pounds. (Tr. 205)
In December of 2010, Bailey accepted an early retirement package from his employer. (Tr. 59) At the same time, his neck arthritis was affecting his ability to work. (Tr. 59) He claims a disability onset date of December 2, 2010. (Tr. 57)
Bailey has chronic neck pain that became worse in 2010. (Tr. 455) He suspects his neck pain stems from childhood where he suffered a fall of 150 feet onto his neck. (Tr. 303, 543)
In May of 2010, MRI scanning studies of Bailey’s neck showed “loss of disc height at C4-5 and C5-6, ” “[p]rominent posterior osteophytes . . . at C4-5, ” and “endplate degenerative changes at C4-5.” (Tr. 551) The radiologist, Baseer Khan, M.D., gave the following impression: “Multilevel degenerative disc disease, moderate at C4-5 and C5-6 . . . Moderate-to- severe bilateral neural foraminal narrowing at C4-5 and moderate bilateral neural foraminal narrowing at C5-6 due to uncovertebral osteophytes.” (Tr. 551-552)
Bailey received steroid injections at the base of his neck in October of 2010, November of 2010, and February of 2011. (Tr. 264, 265, 266) Gene Choi, M..D., diagnosed “cervicalgia, cervical disc degeneration.” (Tr. 264)
Bailey received steroid injections at C6-7 in July, August, and September of 2011 at the Center for Neurosciences. (Tr. 377-379) Bailey reported “he [has] definitely made some improvement, [but] he continues to have significant daily discomfort.” (Tr. 377) “This [has] notably limited his ability to perform a number of activities for any extended interval accordingly.” Id. Richard A. Chase, M.D., assessed chronic cervicalgia and cervical spondylosis. (Tr. 377) MRI studies performed in December of 2011 showed similar evidence of degenerative disc disease at C4-5 and C5-6. (Tr. 424)
In March of 2012, Brian P. Callahan, M.D., noted that Bailey’s neck pain was getting worse despite his steroid injections. (Tr. 445) He stated “[h]is MRI does show that he has mild multilevel degenerative disc disease throughout, but there is not central stenosis and no compression on the spinal cord.” Id. Accordingly, Callahan informed Bailey that surgery would not reduce his pain. Id. He noted Bailey “seemed very displeased that there was not a surgery I could do to help him with his pain.” Id.
In July of 2012, MRI studies of Bailey’s back revealed “degenerative changes . . . most marked L3-4 and L4-5 levels.” (Tr. 545)
In February of 2012, Jean Goerss, M.D., reviewed the record and completed a Physical Residual Functional Capacity Assessment for the state disability determination service. (Tr. 93-94) She concluded Bailey could lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, which is consistent with light work. (Tr. 93) He could stand for about six hours and sit for about six hours in an 8-hour work day. (Tr. 93) He should never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. Id.
In July of 2012, Martha A. Goodrich, M.D., reviewed the record and completed a Physical Residual Functional Capacity Assessment for the state disability determination service. (Tr. 109-110) She concluded Bailey could lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, which is consistent with light work. (Tr. 108) He could stand for about six hours and sit for about six hours in an 8-hour work day. (Tr. 108) He should never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. Id.
In October of 2012, Bailey’s treating physician, Jasmine England, M.D., completed a Medical Assessment of Ability to do Work Related Physical Activities. (Tr. 486-488) England listed Bailey’s physical impairments as “Dyspnea (due to COPD), Neck Pain (due to cervical degenerative disk disease), [and] Abdominal pain (acid reflux). (Tr. 486) England opined Bailey could lift or carry less than 10 pounds frequently and less than 10 pounds occasionally. Id. He could stand or walk less than two hours per day, and sit for two hours per day. Id. He should never climb, kneel, or crouch. (Tr. 487) England further opined that Bailey has severe pain “which precludes ability to function.” (Tr. 489) His pain is “sufficiently severe” to “frequently . . . interfere with attention and concentration.” ...