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Campos v. Astrue

March 27, 2009

GUADALUPE CAMPOS, 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 April 2, 2008, plaintiff Guadalupe Campos ("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; April 7, 2008 Case Management Order, ¶ 5.

Based on the record as a whole and the applicable law, the decision of the Commissioner is REVERSED AND REMANDED for further proceedings consistent with this Memorandum and Opinion and Order of Remand.

II. BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

In January 2004, plaintiff filed applications for Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance Benefits. (Administrative Record ("AR") 16, 103-105). Plaintiff asserted that she became disabled in April 2002, due to two back surgeries with metal rods in her spine, shoulder surgery, dislocated cervical neck vertebra disc, anticipated elbow surgery, high blood pressure with angina, arthritis and high cholesterol. (AR 103, 119). The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") examined the medical record and heard testimony from plaintiff (who was represented by counsel) on March 24, 2005. (AR 804-826).

On April 18, 2005, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled through the date of the decision. (AR 45-51). On February 23, 2006, the Appeals Council granted plaintiff's application for review and remanded the matter. (AR 92-95).

The ALJ again examined the medical record and heard testimony from plaintiff (who was represented by counsel) and a vocational expert on September 13, 2006. (AR 826-43). On December 8, 2006, the ALJ, who incorporated by reference his prior April 18, 2005 decision, again determined that plaintiff was not disabled through the date of the decision. (AR 16-22). Specifically, the ALJ found: (1) plaintiff suffered from the following combination of severe impairments: residuals of bilateral shoulder and left elbow injuries; residuals of lumbar spine surgery; history of coronary artery disease with atypical chest pain and well preserved cardiac function; chronic cervicothoracic sprain-strain syndrome with moderate degenerative changes in the cervical spine; and mood disorder, not otherwise specified (AR 18); (2) plaintiff's impairment or combination of impairments did not meet or medically equal a listed impairment (AR 19); (3) plaintiff retained, and never lost for any significant period of time, the residual functional capacity to perform a "significant range of light work" and more specifically, to: (a) lift, carry, push, or pull twenty pounds occasionally, and ten pounds frequently; (ii) stand or walk frequently with customary breaks; and (iii) sit at least frequently with customary breaks. perform light work (AR 19, 20); (4) plaintiff could perform her past relevant work as an assistant manager/ supervisor housekeeper; and bus driver (AR 21);*fn1 (5) if, in addition to the foregoing residual functional capacity, plaintiff was mentally limited to simple, routine, repetitive, nonpublic tasks, she could perform jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy (AR 21-22); and (6) plaintiff's statements concerning the intensity, persistence and limiting effects of her symptoms were not entirely credible (AR 20).

On February 15, 2008, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's application for review. (AR 7-9).

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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