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Le v. Astrue

May 6, 2010

HUNG THANH LE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Suzanne H. Segal United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Hung Thanh Le ("Plaintiff") brings this action seeking to reverse the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the "Commissioner" or the "Agency") for denying his application for Social Security Disability Insurance ("SSDI"). The parties consented, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge. For the reasons stated below, the decision of the Agency is REVERSED and REMANDED for further proceedings.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff filed an application for SSDI on December 19, 2005.*fn1 (Administrative Record ("AR") 78-79). He alleged a disability onset date of April 1, 2004, (AR 78, 91), due to carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands. (AR 90).

The Agency denied Plaintiff's claim for SSDI initially on April 4, 2006. (AR 52-55). This denial was upheld upon reconsideration on June 1, 2006. (AR 58-62). Plaintiff then requested a hearing, (AR 63), which was held before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Sally C. Reason on February 4, 2008. (AR 23). Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified. (AR 23-49). Robert Hatakyamo, a vocational expert ("VE"), also testified at the hearing. (Id.).

The ALJ denied benefits on April 16, 2008. (AR 8-20). Plaintiff sought review of the ALJ's decision before the Appeals Council, which denied his request on April 13, 2009. (AR 1-3). The ALJ's decision therefore became the final decision of the Commissioner. (Id.). Plaintiff commenced the instant action on June 8, 2009. Pursuant to the Court's Case Management Order, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("Jt. Stip.") on February 10, 2010.

THE FIVE-STEP SEQUENTIAL EVALUATION PROCESS

To qualify for disability benefits, a claimant must demonstrate a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that prevents him from engaging in substantial gainful activity and that is expected to*fn2 result in death or to last for a continuous period of at least twelve months. Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 721 (9th Cir. 1998) (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)).

To decide if a claimant is entitled to benefits, an ALJ conducts a five-step inquiry. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920. The steps are:

(1) Is the claimant presently engaged in substantial gainful activity? If so, the claimant is found not disabled. If not, proceed to step two.

(2) Is the claimant's impairment severe? If not, the claimant is found not disabled. If so, proceed to step three.

(3) Does the claimant's impairment meet or equal the requirements of any impairment listed at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1? If so, the claimant is found disabled. If not, proceed to step four.

(4) Is the claimant capable of performing his past work? If so, the claimant is found not disabled. If not, proceed to step five.

(5) Is the claimant able to do any other work? If not, the claimant is found disabled. If so, the ...


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