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Robert W. Strauss v. Commissioner of the Social

March 28, 2011

ROBERT W. STRAUSS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



D.C. No. 6:08-cv-00931-AA Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Oregon Ann L. Aiken, Chief District Judge, Presiding

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Graber, Circuit Judge

FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

Argued and Submitted March 11, 2011-Portland, Oregon

Before: Sidney R. Thomas and Susan P. Graber, Circuit Judges, and James V. Selna,*fn1 District Judge.

Opinion by Judge Graber

OPINION

Plaintiff Robert W. Strauss seeks social security disability benefits, which the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") ultimately denied after two hearings. The district court held that, in rendering his second decision, the administrative law judge ("ALJ") had failed to comply with express directives in remand orders from the court and from the Social Security Administration's Appeals Council ("Appeals Council") and, for that reason, remanded for payment of benefits. We reverse and remand to the district court to consider whether the evidence establishes that Plaintiff is disabled, because the court is without authority to order payment of benefits absent a finding of disability.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed for disability benefits on December 23, 2003. He claimed that he had become disabled on October 31, 2001, as a result of left-knee chronic neuropathic pain, hypertension, and depression. His application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, and he requested a hearing before an ALJ.

An ALJ conducted a hearing at which he received testimony from Plaintiff, Plaintiff's wife, their son and daughter, and a vocational expert. The ALJ issued a decision on February 23, 2006, finding that Plaintiff was not disabled. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review.

Plaintiff then filed a complaint in district court. Pursuant to a stipulation of the parties, the court reversed the ALJ's decision and remanded the case for further administrative proceedings. The court's remand order provided in part:

The ALJ will conduct a new hearing, further develop the record and ...


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