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Marshall v. Astrue

December 21, 2009

JOHN A. MARSHALL, 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 November 26, 2008, plaintiff John A. Marshall ("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; December 2, 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 March 31, 2004, plaintiff filed an application for Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance Benefits. (Administrative Record ("AR") 93-95). Plaintiff asserted that he became disabled on or about June 20, 2001, due to "HIV - seizures." (AR 93, 105). The Social Security Administration denied plaintiff's application initially and on reconsideration. (AR 46-51 64-68, 72-78). Plaintiff requested a hearing, which an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") conducted on April 30, 2006. (AR 79, 641-56). The ALJ examined the medical record and heard testimony from plaintiff (who was represented by counsel). (AR 641-56).

On May 12, 2006, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled through the date of the decision. (AR 55-59). On review, the Appeals Council remanded the matter to the ALJ for further proceedings. (AR 62-63). The ALJ then conducted two additional hearings on June 27, 2007 and November 15, 2007, during which plaintiff (who again appeared with counsel) testified. (AR 612-40).

On April 11, 2008, the ALJ once again determined that plaintiff was not disabled through the date of the decision. (AR 15-23). Specifically, the ALJ found: (1) plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: a history of seizure disorder and human immunodeficiency virus infection (HIV) (AR 17); (2) plaintiff's impairment or combination of impairments did not meet or medically equal a listed impairment (AR 19); (3) plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of light work (AR 19);*fn1 (4) plaintiff could not perform his past relevant work (AR 21); (5) there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that plaintiff could perform (AR 22); and (6) plaintiff's allegations regarding his limitations were not totally credible (AR 20-21).

The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's application for review. (AR 6-8).

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. ...


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