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Shahabzada v. Astrue

February 17, 2010

HAMED SHAHABZADA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Janis L. Sammartino United States District Judge

ORDER (1) ADOPTING MAGISTRATE JUDGE RECOMMENDATION, (2) GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, AND (3) DENYING DEFENDANT'S CROSS-MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT STORMES'S REPORT AND (Doc. Nos. 12, 13, & 16.)

Presently before the Court are cross motions for summary judgment by Plaintiff Hamed Shahabzada and Defendant Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security. (Doc. Nos. 12 & 13.) Also before the Court is a Report and Recommendation (R&R) from Magistrate Judge Stormes advising this Court to grant Plaintiff's motion and deny Defendant's motion. (Doc. No. 16.) Finally, Defendant has filed objections to the R&R and Plaintiff has replied to those objections. (Doc. Nos. 17 & 18.) Having considered the R&R and Defendant's objections, the Court (1) OVERRULES Defendant's objections, (2) ADOPTS Magistrate Judge Stormes's Recommendation and Report, (3) GRANTS Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment; and (4) DENIES Defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment.

BACKGROUND

The Court finds that the background contained in the R&R is both accurate and complete. Further, Defendant has not objected to this aspect of the R&R. Therefore, the Court incorporates the R&R's "Procedural History" section by reference. (R&R at 1--3.)

LEGAL STANDARDS

I. DISTRICT COURT REVIEW OF A REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) set forth the duties of the district court in connection with a magistrate judge's report and recommendation. "The district court must make a de novo determination of those portions of the report... to which objection is made," and "may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the finding or recommendations made by the magistrate." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(c); see also United States v. Remsing, 874 F.2d 614, 617 (9th Cir. 1989); United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 676 (1980). However, the Court has no obligation to review a legal conclusions to which neither party objects. Schmidt v. Johnstone, 263 F. Supp. 2d 1219, 1226 (D. Ariz. 2003); see also United States v. Reyna-Tapia, 328 F.3d 1114, 1121 (9th Cir. 2003) (en banc).

II. REVIEW OF DENIAL OF DISABILITY CLAIM*fn1

When an applicant's claim for disability benefits under the Social Security Act has been denied, he may seek judicial review of the Commissioner's decision. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The reviewing Court will reverse the Commissioner's decision only if "it is based upon legal error or is not supported by substantial evidence." Bayliss v. Barnhart, 427 F.3d 1211, 1214 n.1 (9th Cir. 2005) (citing Tidwell v. Apfel, 161 F.3d 599, 601 (9th Cir. 1999)). "Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion" and is "more than a mere scintilla but less than a preponderance." Webb v. Barnhart, 433 F.3d 683, 686 (9th Cir. 2005) (citing Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)); Tidwell, 161 F.3d at 601 (citing Jamerson v. Chater, 112 F.3d 1064, 1066 (9th Cir.1997)). This inquiry looks to the record as a whole. Sample v. Schweiker, 694 F.2d 639, 642 (9th Cir. 1982). However, if the evidence supports more than one interpretation, the Court must uphold the Administrative Law Judge's (ALJ) decision. Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1097 (9th Cir. 1999). "Where, as here, the Appeals Council denies a request for review of an ALJ's decision, the decision of the ALJ represents the final decision of the Commissioner." Batson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1193 n.1 (9th Cir 2004) (citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.981).

In order to qualify for disability benefits, an applicant must show that he is "disabled," meaning (1) that he suffers from a medically determinable impairment that can be expected to last for a continuous period of twelve months or more, or would result in death, and (2) the impairment renders applicant incapable of performing the work they previously performed or any other substantially gainful employment that exists in the national economy. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), (2)(A). To evaluate the applicant's claim, an ALJ must apply a five-step analysis. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520.

In step one, the ALJ determines whether a claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity. If so, the claimant is not disabled. If not, the ALJ proceeds to step two and evaluates whether the claimant has a medically severe impairment or combination of impairments. If not, the claimant is not disabled. If so, the ALJ proceeds to step three and considers whether the impairment or combination of impairments meets or equals a listed impairment under 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, App. 1. If so, the claimant is automatically presumed disabled. If not, the ALJ proceeds to step four and assesses whether the claimant is capable of performing her past relevant work. If so, the claimant is not disabled. If not, the ALJ proceeds to step five and examines whether the claimant has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform any other substantial gainful activity in the national economy. If so, the claimant is not disabled.

If not, the claimant is disabled.

Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005). A claimant bears the burden of proof with respect to the first four steps, but for the fifth step the burden shifts to the Commissioner. Id. (citing ...


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