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Speed v. Astrue

April 27, 2009

DONALD R. SPEED, 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 March 27, 2008, plaintiff Donald R. Speed ("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; March 28, 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

On November 30, 2004, plaintiff filed an application for Supplemental Security Income benefits. (Administrative Record ("AR") 17, 112, 187-88). Plaintiff asserted that he became disabled on January 1, 2002, due to body pain, depression and acid reflux. (AR 240).

On March 23, 2007, an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") determined that plaintiff was not disabled through the date of the decision. (AR 17-24). Specifically, the ALJ found: (1) plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: cervical radiculopathy, back pain, hypertension, post traumatic stress disorder secondary to serving in Vietnam, and depression (AR 19); (2) plaintiff's impairment or combination of impairments did not meet or medically equal a listed impairments (AR 20); (3) plaintiff could perform medium work (AR 21); (4) plaintiff could not perform his past relevant work (AR 23);*fn1 and (5) there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that plaintiff could perform, specifically a packer. (AR 24).

The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's application for review. (AR 7-10).

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 ...


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