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Avalos v. Astrue

March 18, 2009

ROGELIO VILLA AVALOS, 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

I. SUMMARY

On November 5, 2007, plaintiff Rogelio Villa Avalos ("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; November 7, 2007 Case Management Order, ¶ 5.

Based on the record as a whole and the applicable law, the decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED. The findings of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") are supported by substantial evidence and are free from material error.*fn1

II. BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

On April 12, 2004, plaintiff filed an application for Supplemental Security Income benefits. (Administrative Record ("AR") 60-62). Plaintiff asserted that he became disabled on July 16, 2002, due to hepatitis B and psychiatric problems. (AR 75-81). The Administrative Law Judge examined the medical record and heard testimony from plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, from plaintiff's friend, and from medical and vocational experts, on January 8, 2007. (AR 294-320).

On April 26, 2007, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled through the date of the decision. (AR 10-16). Specifically, the ALJ found:

(1) plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: hepatitis C; a mood disorder, not otherwise specified; and a history of drug and/or alcohol abuse (AR 15); (2) plaintiff's impairments or combination of impairments did not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments (AR 11, 15); (3) plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity to perform medium work (AR 16);*fn2 (4) plaintiff could not perform his past relevant work (AR 16); (5) there are a significant number of jobs in the national economy that plaintiff could perform (AR 16); and (6) plaintiff's allegations regarding his limitations were not totally credible (AR 15).

The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's application for review. (AR 3-5).

III. APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Sequential Evaluation Process

To qualify for disability benefits, a claimant must show that he 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 he 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. If not, proceed to step two.

(2) Is the claimant's alleged impairment sufficiently severe to limit his ability to work? If not, the claimant is not disabled. If so, proceed to step three.

(3) Does the claimant's impairment, or combination of impairments, meet or equal an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1? If so, the claimant is disabled. If not, proceed to step four.

(4) Does the claimant possess the residual functional capacity*fn3 to perform his past relevant work? If so, the claimant is not disabled. If not, proceed to step five.

(5) Does the claimant's residual functional capacity, when considered with the claimant's age, education, and work experience, allow him to adjust to other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy? If so, the ...


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