The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rosalyn M. Chapman United States Magistrate Judge
Plaintiff Cabrun E. Watson filed a complaint on August 29, 2007, seeking review of the Commissioner's decision denying his application for disability benefits. The Commissioner answered the complaint on January 16, 2008, and the parties filed a joint stipulation on March 18, 2008.
On August 30, 2004 (protective filing date), plaintiff applied for disability benefits under the Supplemental Security Income program ("SSI") of Title XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1382(a), claiming an inability to work since June 14, 2002, due to shortness of breath, lung problems, and right ankle pain. Certified Administrative Record ("A.R.") 64-67, 76. The plaintiff's application was denied on December 17, 2004. A.R. 49-54. The plaintiff then requested an administrative hearing, which was held before Administrative Law Judge Robert A. Evans ("the ALJ") on August 1, 2006. A.R. 55-57, 199-215. On October 23, 2006, the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff is not disabled. A.R. 15-26. The plaintiff appealed the decision to the Appeals Council, which denied review on June 20, 2007. A.R. 4-11.
The plaintiff, who was born on February 3, 1966, is currently 42 years old. A.R. 65. He has an eleventh-grade education, and previously worked as a janitor and loader/unloader. A.R. 77, 80, 82-83, 203, 208.
The Court, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), has the authority to review the Commissioner's decision denying plaintiff disability benefits to determine if his findings are supported by substantial evidence and whether the Commissioner used the proper legal standards in reaching his decision. Stubbs-Danielson v. Astrue, 539 F.3d 1169, 1172 (9th Cir. 2008); Carmickle v. Comm'r, Soc. Sec. Admin., 533 F.3d 1155, 1159 (9th Cir. 2008).
The claimant is "disabled" for the purpose of receiving benefits under the Act if he is unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity due to an impairment which has lasted, or is expected to last, for a continuous period of at least twelve months. 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 416.905(a). "The claimant bears the burden of establishing a prima facie case of disability." Roberts v. Shalala, 66 F.3d 179, 182 (9th Cir. 1995), cert. denied, 517 U.S. 1122 (1996); Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1289 (9th Cir. 1996).
The Commissioner has promulgated regulations establishing a five-step sequential evaluation process for the ALJ to follow in a disability case. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920. In the First Step, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(b). If not, in the Second Step, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has a severe impairment or combination of impairments significantly limiting him from performing basic work activities. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(c). If so, in the Third Step, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or equals the requirements of the Listing of Impairments ("Listing"), 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpart P, App. 1. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(d). If not, in the Fourth Step, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has sufficient residual functional capacity despite the impairment or various limitations to perform his past work. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(f). If not, in Step Five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show the claimant can perform other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(g).
Applying the five-step sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date, June 14, 2002. (Step One). The ALJ then found plaintiff has "mild degenerative joint disease of the right elbow and right forearm, right ankle chronic strain, and status post laparotomy and splenectomy for gunshot wound," which are severe impairments (Step Two); however, he does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or equals a Listing. (Step Three). The ALJ next determined plaintiff cannot perform his past relevant work. ...