The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Jacqueline Chooljian United States Magistrate Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF REMAND
On October 17, 2007, plaintiff Kathleen Wright ("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 18, 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 consistent with this Memorandum Opinion and Order of Remand because the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") erroneously failed to address lay witness evidence and the Court cannot find such error to be harmless.
II. BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION
On August 22, 2005, plaintiff filed an application for Supplemental Security Income benefits. (Administrative Record ("AR") 12, 35-36). Plaintiff asserted that she became disabled due to severe asthma, depression and mild arthritis. (AR 65, 66). The ALJ examined the medical record and heard testimony from plaintiff (who was represented by counsel), a medical expert and a vocational expert on June 26, 2007. (AR 621-42).
On August 6, 2007, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled through the date of the decision. (AR 12-19). Specifically, the ALJ found:
(1) plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: A depressive disorder not otherwise specified, a psychotic disorder not otherwise specified, cocaine dependence, and a personality disorder not otherwise specified (AR 14); (2) plaintiff's impairments, considered singly or in combination, did not meet or medically equal a listed impairment (AR 14); (3) plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels, with the following nonexertional limitations: (i) work limited to simple repetitive work tasks which is object oriented and requires no hypervigilance; (ii) contact with the general public, but only occasional and minimal non-intense contact with supervisors and coworkers; (iii) no responsibility for the safety of others; and (iv) no operation of dangerous unguarded moving machinery (AR 15); (4) plaintiff could not perform her past relevant work (AR 18); (5) plaintiff could perform other work that exists in significant number in the national economy (AR 18); and (6) plaintiff's allegations regarding her limitations were not entirely 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. ...