The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rosalyn M. Chapman United States Magistrate Judge
Plaintiff Hortensia C. Freeman filed a complaint on May 8, 2008, seeking review of the Commissioner's decision denying her applications for disability benefits, and on October 22, 2008, the Commissioner answered the complaint. The parties filed a joint stipulation on December 5, 2008.
On February 2, 2006, plaintiff applied for disability benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act ("Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 423, and the Supplemental Security Income program ("SSI") of Title XVI of the Act, claiming an inability to work since March 23, 2005, due to severe headaches, dizziness, hypertension, and right leg problems.
Certified Administrative Record ("A.R.") 108-16, 148. The plaintiff's applications were initially denied on August 30, 2006. A.R. 53-57. The plaintiff then requested an administrative hearing, which was held before Administrative Law Judge Ariel L. Sotolongo ("the ALJ") on November 1, 2007. A.R. 25-51, 62-63. On January 15, 2008, the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff is not disabled. A.R. 8-20. The plaintiff appealed this decision to the Appeals Council, which denied review on March 28, 2008. A.R. 3-7.
The plaintiff, who was born on February 11, 1956, is currently 53 years old. A.R. 29, 108, 113. She has a college degree, and previously worked as a bus driver. A.R. 29, 135-42, 148-50, 176.
The Court, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), has the authority to review the Commissioner's decision denying disability benefits to plaintiff to determine whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence and whether he used the proper legal standards in reaching his decision. Vasquez v. Astrue, 572 F.3d 586, 591 (9th Cir. 2009); Vernoff v. Astrue, 568 F.3d 1102, 1105 (9th Cir. 2009). "In determining whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence, [this Court] must review the administrative record as a whole, weighing both the evidence that supports and the evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's conclusion." Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 720 (9th Cir. 1998); Holohan v. Massanari, 246 F.3d 1195, 1201 (9th Cir. 2001). "Where the evidence can reasonably support either affirming or reversing the decision, [this Court] may not substitute [its] judgment for that of the Commissioner." Parra v. Astrue, 481 F.3d 742, 746 (9th Cir. 2007), cert. denied, 128 S.Ct. 1068 (2008); Vasquez, 572 F.3d at 591.
The Commissioner has promulgated regulations establishing a five-step sequential evaluation process for the ALJ to follow in a disability case. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. In the First Step, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b), 416.920(b). If not, in the Second Step, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has a severe impairment or combination of impairments significantly limiting her from performing basic work activities.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c). If so, in the Third Step, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or equals the requirements of the Listing of Impairments ("Listing"), 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpart P, App. 1. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d). If not, in the Fourth Step, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has sufficient residual functional capacity despite the impairment or various limitations to perform her past work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(f), 416.920(f). If not, in Step Five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show the claimant can perform other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g), 416.920(g).
Applying the five-step sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged onset date of March 23, 2005. (Step One). The ALJ then found plaintiff "has the following severe impairments: uterine fibroids and bleeding; right leg strain; hypertension and obesity"; however, she does not have a severe mental impairment (Step Two). The ALJ then found plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or equals a Listing. (Step Three). The ALJ next determined plaintiff is unable to perform her past relevant work. (Step ...