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Ramirez v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Arizona

November 19, 2019

David Ramirez, Plaintiff,
v.
Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          ORDER

          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) and 1383(c)(3). (Doc. 1, p. 1)

         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. 12)

         The ALJ found that the claimant's drug addiction was material to his determination of disability and denied benefits. The ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence and free from legal error. It is affirmed.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On May 21, 2015, Ramirez filed an application for disability insurance benefits pursuant to Title II of the Social Security Act. (Tr. 109) On May 26, 2015, he filed an application for supplemental security income pursuant to Title XVI. (Tr. 110) He alleged disability beginning on October 20, 2010, due to depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and scoliosis. (Tr. 387)

         His applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration. (Tr. 192-199); (Tr. 202-209) Ramirez requested review and appeared with counsel at a hearing before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Laura Havens on July 20, 2017. (Tr. 47) At that hearing, the ALJ decided that she needed testimony from a medical expert. (Tr. 79-81) On November 8, 2017, Ramirez appeared with counsel at a second hearing, this time before ALJ Charles Davis. (Tr. 84) The ALJ received testimony from medical expert Joseph Malancharuvil, M.D., vocational expert Robin Scher, and the claimant. (Tr. 84) In his decision, dated April 3, 2018, ALJ Davis found that Ramirez was not eligible for benefits because if he stopped his substance abuse he would be able to work. (Tr. 30) Ramirez appealed, but on February 12, 2019, the Appeals Council denied review making the decision of the ALJ the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-4) Ramirez subsequently filed this action appealing that final decision. (Doc. 1)

         Claimant's Work History and Medical History

         Ramirez was born in July of 1983. (Tr. 50) He was 34 years old when the ALJ issued his decision in April of 2018. (Tr. 32, 34) He has a GED. (Tr. 50)

         Ramirez has worked at a number of jobs, but he struggles to stay employed. (Tr. 51-52, 68, 89) He suffers from depression and anxiety. (Tr. 68) He also has substance abuse problems. (Tr. 87)

         In 2017, Ramirez worked for Walmart for almost six months, but when he found out that his ex-girlfriend was with somebody else, he became depressed and “didn't get out of bed for a couple of days.” (Tr. 52, 372) In 2016, he worked for Marriott doing room service for three months. (Tr. 53, 366) Before that, in 2015, he worked at a call center for four months. (Tr. 54) In 2010, he worked at Taco Bell for about a year. (Tr. 54) Ramirez's alleged disability onset date is October 20, 2010. (Tr. 387) From 1999 to 2001, he worked for the Pima County Parks and Recreation department as a groundskeeper, but he explained that his father got him the job and helped him to keep it. (Tr. 56, 107, 362)

         At the hearing, medical expert Joseph Malancharuvil, M.D., testified that Ramirez has mood disorder aggravated by drug use, personality disorder with anti-social features, and mixed substance abuse disorder. (Tr. 87) He is moderately limited in his ability to understand, remember, apply information, interact with others, concentrate, and persist or maintain pace. (Tr. 88) His ability to adapt or manage himself is markedly limited. (Tr. 88) Malancharuvil further opined that if Ramirez were to become sober, he would be only mildly limited in his ability to understand, remember or apply information, interact with others, concentrate, and persist or maintain pace. (Tr. 89) His ability to adapt or manage himself would be mildly to moderately limited. (Tr. 89) He could perform moderately complex tasks but could not operate hazardous or fast-moving machinery. (Tr. 89) He should not be in a job that requires constant interaction with the public. (Tr. 89-90)

         Vocational expert Robin Scher testified at the hearing that someone with the claimant's age and vocational and educational background, with no exertional limitations but limited to “work that involves up to four to five-step instructions, no workplace hazards such as moving mechanical machinery, [] no fast-paced work [] and occasional interaction with the public, coworkers or supervisors on a superficial work basis, ” could work in Ramirez's previous job as a groundskeeper. (Tr. 100) (punctuation modified) In the alternative, such a person could work as a marker, DOT #209.587-034, routing clerk, DOT #222.687-022, or day worker, DOT #301.687-014. (Tr. 100-101)

         Medical ...


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