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Stanley v. Astrue

March 16, 2009

ROSEMARY F. STANLEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Jacqueline Chooljian United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF REMAND

I. SUMMARY

On October 12, 2007, plaintiff Rosemary F. Stanley ("plaintiff") filed a Complaint seeking review of the Commissioner of Social Security's denial of plaintiff's application for benefits. The parties have filed a consent to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the parties' cross motions for summary judgment, respectively ("Plaintiff's Motion") and ("Defendant's Motion"). The Court has taken both motions under submission without oral argument. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 78; L.R. 7-15; October 16, 2007 Case Management Order, ¶ 5.

Based on the record as a whole and the applicable law, the decision of the Commissioner is REMANDED for further proceedings because the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") erroneously failed to address the lay witness evidence supplied by plaintiff's boyfriend.

II. BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

In March and April 2005, plaintiff filed applications for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") and Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"). (Administrative Record ("AR") 13, 169-72, 178). Plaintiff asserted that she became disabled on June 1, 2002, due to back and neck injuries, possible stroke and stress. (AR 55). The ALJ examined the medical record and heard testimony from plaintiff (who was represented by counsel), plaintiff's boyfriend, and a vocational expert on February 27, 2007. (AR 179-214).

On April 25, 2007, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled through the date of the decision. (AR 12-17). Specifically, the ALJ found:

(1) plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease and hypertension (AR 16); (2) plaintiff's impairments, considered singly or in combination, did not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments (AR 13, 16); (3) plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity "to lift and carry 25 pounds frequently and 50 pounds occasionally, stand and/or walk for six hours in an eight-hour day and sit for six hours in an eight-hour day" (AR 16); (4) plaintiff could perform her past relevant work (AR 16); (5) plaintiff could perform other work that exists in significant number in the national economy (AR 13, 16); and (6) plaintiff's allegations regarding her limitations were not totally credible. (AR 16).

The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's application for review. (AR 4-6).

III. APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Sequential Evaluation Process

To qualify for disability benefits, a claimant must show that she is unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least twelve months. Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A)). The impairment must render the claimant incapable of performing the work she previously performed and incapable of performing any other substantial gainful employment that exists in the national economy. Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th Cir. 1999) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A)). In assessing whether a claimant is disabled, an ALJ is to follow a five-step sequential evaluation process:

(1) Is the claimant presently engaged in substantial gainful activity? If so, the claimant is not disabled. ...


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