United States District Court, D. Arizona
H. Russel Holland United States District Judge
This is an action for judicial review of the denial of disability benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434. Plaintiff has timely filed his opening brief, to which defendant has responded and defendant has filed a motion to remand. Plaintiff has filed a response to the motion to remand. Oral argument has not been requested and is not deemed necessary.
Plaintiff is William Paul Roosma. Defendant is Carolyn W. Colvin, acting Commissioner of Social Security.
On February 2, 2010, plaintiff filed an application for disability benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act. Plaintiff alleged that he became disabled on January 6, 2010. Plaintiff’s application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. After a hearing on May 23, 2011, an administrative law judge (ALJ) denied plaintiff’s claim. On December 30, 2011, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff’s request for review, thereby making the ALJ’s July 8, 2011 decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Plaintiff did not seek judicial review of this decision.
Instead, on February 2, 2012, plaintiff filed a new application for disability benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act. Plaintiff alleged that he became disabled on January 1, 2012. Plaintiff alleged that he was disabled because of generalized anxiety disorder, spinal injuries, crepitus in both knees, right torn ankle ligaments, cholesterol, Hillsacks injury, angina, fused neck C5-C6, mild scoliosis, and degenerative joint disease. Plaintiff’s application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. After a hearing on July 2, 2013, an ALJ denied plaintiff’s claims. On December 18, 2014, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff’s request for review, thereby making the ALJ’s September 27, 2013 decision the final decision of the Commissioner. On January 5, 2015, plaintiff commenced this action in which he asks the court to find that he is entitled to disability benefits.
Plaintiff was born on April 24, 1967. He was 46 years old at the time of the July 2013 hearing. Plaintiff was married when he filed his application for benefits, but he and his wife divorced in 2013. Plaintiff has a high school education. Plaintiff joined the Marine Corp after high school and was in the Corps until 1999. Plaintiff has a VA [Department of Veterans Affairs] disability rating, “with a combined total rating of 90 percent overall; and ... 100 percent due to unemployability.” Plaintiff receives all of his medical care, for both his physical impairments and his mental impairments, at the VA.
Plaintiff’s past relevant work has been as a motorcycle mechanic, an aviation mechanic, test vehicle operator, over-the-road truck driver, service writer or manager, and non-emergency dispatcher. Plaintiff had 15-16 jobs between the time he got out of the Marine Corps until he stopped working in 2010. As explained by one of the examining mental health professionals, plaintiff has
a long history of difficulties in relationships that has resulted
in not only unhealthy and sometimes abusive relationships, but also in an
inability to successfully sustain employment. He inevitably would come into
conflict with coworkers and employers which eventually would result in his
being fired if he didnt quit first. Undermining his ability to be
successful in employment are difficulties with mood stability and long-term
The ALJs’ Decisions
I. July 8, 2011 decision
The ALJ first determined that plaintiff met “the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2014.” The ALJ then applied the five-step sequential analysis used to determine whether a claimant is disabled.
At step one, the ALJ found that plaintiff had “not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 1, 2010, the alleged onset date....”
At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff had “the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine, mood disorder, impulse control disorder and generalized anxiety disorder....”
At step three, the ALJ found that plaintiff did “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....” The ALJ considered Listings 12.04 (affective disorders) and 12.06 (anxiety-related disorders). The ALJ considered the “paragraph B” criteria and found that plaintiff had no restrictions in activities of daily living; moderate difficulties in social functioning; mild difficulties with regard to concentration, persistence, or pace; and no episodes of decompensation, which had been of extended duration. The claimant is disabled. ALJ also considered the “paragraph C” criteria and found that “the evidence fails to establish the presence of the ‘paragraph C’ criteria.”
“Between steps three and four, the ALJ must, as an intermediate step, assess the claimant’s RFC.” Bray v. Comm’r Soc. Sec. Admin., 554 F.3d 1219, 1222-23 (9th Cir. 2009). The ALJ found that plaintiff had
the residual functional capacity to perform less than the full range of light work as defined in 20 CFR
must avoid exposure to hazards such as unprotected heights and moving
machinery. He is additionally limited to work requiring no necessary contact
with the general public or customers and only brief, ...