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Granados-Dominguez v. Astrue

October 26, 2009

ARTURO GRANADOS-DOMINGUEZ, 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 June 13, 2007, plaintiff Arturo Granados-Dominguez ("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 10, 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 September 30, 2003, plaintiff filed applications for Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance Benefits. (Administrative Record ("AR") 13, 54-56). Plaintiff asserted that he became disabled on January 1, 2000, due to an inability to stand on his leg for a long period of time. (AR 74). The ALJ examined the medical record and heard testimony from plaintiff (who was represented by counsel) on April 3, 2006. (AR 285-308). At the end of the hearing, the ALJ ordered consultative neurological and psychological examinations for plaintiff and set a further hearing date. (AR 13, 307). The ALJ examined the additional evidence and, on July 12, 2006, held a supplemental hearing at which a vocational expert testified. (AR 309-16). The ALJ thereafter requested and received further clarification from one of the examining physicians, advised plaintiff that the additional evidence would be part of the record, and afforded plaintiff an opportunity to supplement the record and to seek a further hearing. (AR 16-17, 108-11).

On October 26, 2006, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled through the date of the decision. (AR 13-21). Specifically, the ALJ found:

(1) plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments of the neurological and musculoskeletal system: (i) history of neurological problems, including weakness and tremor; (ii) a recent diagnosis of cerebral palsy; and

(iii) degenerative changes in the lumbar and cervical spine (AR 15-16);

(2) plaintiff's impairments, considered singly or in combination, did not meet or medically equal a listed impairment (AR 16); (3) plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity to perform a range of light work (AR 16);*fn2 (4) plaintiff could not perform his past relevant work (AR 20); and (5) there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that plaintiff could perform (AR 20-21).

The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's application for review. (AR 5-7).

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 to perform his past relevant work?*fn3 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 claimant is not disabled. If not, the claimant is disabled.

Stout v. Commissioner, Social Security Administration, 454 F.3d 1050, 1052 (9th Cir. 2006) (citing 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920).

The claimant has the burden of proof at steps one through four, and the Commissioner has the burden of proof at step five. Bustamante v. Massanari, 262 F.3d 949, 954-54 (9th Cir. 2001) (citing Tackett); see also Burch, 400 F.3d at 679 (claimant carries initial burden of proving disability).

B. Standard of Review

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. section 405(g), a court may set aside a denial of benefits only if it is not supported by substantial evidence or if it is based on legal error. Robbins v. Social Security Administration, 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006) (citing Flatten v. Secretary of Health & Human Services, 44 F.3d 1453, 1457 (9th Cir. 1995)). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (citations and quotations omitted). It is more ...


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