The opinion of the court was delivered by: Irma E. Gonzalez, Chief Judge United States District Court
ORDER: (1) DENYING PLAINTIFF'S AMENDED MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [Doc. No. 18]; and (2) GRANTING DEFENDANT'S CROSS-MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [Doc. No. 20].
Currently before the Court are Plaintiff's Amended Motion for Summary Judgment and Defendant's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment. Having considered the parties' arguments, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's motion and GRANTS Defendant's cross-motion.
Plaintiff is a 44-year-old female with at least a high school education. (Administrative Record ("AR") at 37.) Plaintiff's past relevant work was as a hairstylist, teacher's aide, store clerk, home attendant, mail clerk, and wall cleaner. (Id.) In the present application for disability benefits, Plaintiff alleges an amended onset date of April 23, 2004. (Id. at 22.) Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Bernard A. Trembly previously denied Plaintiff's application for disability benefits for an earlier period. (Id.) That unfavorable decision was issued on April 22, 2004. (Id.)
On July 19, 2004, Plaintiff protectively filed the current application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits under Title II and for supplemental security income payments under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. (Id.) The claim was denied initially on October 29, 2004, and upon reconsideration on March 14, 2005. (Id.) Thereafter, Plaintiff filed an untimely request for a hearing on July 5, 2005, which was denied on September 5, 2006. (Id.) Plaintiff sought review of the dismissal of her request for a hearing. (Id.) By order dated March 29, 2007, the Appeals Council vacated the order of dismissal based on a finding that Plaintiff had good cause for the late filing. (Id.) Upon remand, the hearing was held before ALJ David L. Wurzel on September 24, 2008. (Id.) Plaintiff appeared represented by counsel and testified at the hearing. (Id.) Testimony was also taken from Alfred G. Jonas, M.D., a medical expert board-certified in psychiatry, and Katie Macy-Powers, a vocational expert. (Id.) The ALJ issued a written decision in this case on January 9, 2009.
In his decision, the ALJ first noted that pursuant to the rule in Chavez v. Bowen, 844 F.2d 691 (9th Cir. 1988), the prior functional limitations found by ALJ Trembly on April 22, 2004 continued after that date and Plaintiff could overcome them only with proof of changed circumstances showing a greater degree of disability. (Id. at 23.) The ALJ then proceeded to apply the five-step sequential evaluation process established by the Social Security Administration. The ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled at step five of the sequential evaluation from her amended onset date of April 23, 2004, through March 31, 2006, because there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform and sustain on a regular and continuing basis. (Id. at 23.) The ALJ further found Plaintiff not disabled at step one from April 1, 2006, through February 29, 2006, during all of which she worked at the level of substantial gainful activity. (Id.) Finally, the ALJ found Plaintiff disabled at step three from March 1, 2008, through the date of the decision. (Id.) Specifically, the ALJ made the following pertinent findings:
2. The claimant engaged in substantial gainful activity from April 1, 2006, through February 29, 2008. . . . .
3. The claimant did not engage in substantial gainful activity from April 23, 2004, through March 31, 2006; or from March 1, 2008, through the date of this decision.
4. Since the alleged onset date of disability, the claimant had the following medically determinable impairments that in combination are considered "severe" under the Social Security Act and regulations: Obesity (62 inches, 185 pounds, BMI 33); headaches; psychotic disorder, NOS, versus drug-induced psychosis; and methamphetamine dependence, in full sustained remission since July 2005 by report. . . . .
5. From April 23, 2004, through March 31, 2006, both with and without drug addiction and alcoholism (DA&A) included in the assessment, the claimant did not have any impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled any impairment listed in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix I. . . . .
6. From April 23, 2004 through March 31, 2006, both with and without drug addiction and alcoholism (DA&A) included in the assessment, the claimant retained the residual functional capacity to perform work activity at the light exertional level, lifting and carrying 10 pounds frequently, and 20 pounds occasionally, and sitting, standing and walking for six hours each per eight-hour workday; with the following non-exertional limitations: never climbing ladders, ropes or scaffolds; never balancing; occasionally climbing ramps and stairs; occasionally stooping and crouching; occasionally kneeling and crawling; avoiding concentrated exposure to extreme heat; and mentally limited to unskilled work with no close or frequent interpersonal contact with supervisors, co-workers, or the public. . . . .
7. From April 23, 2004, to March 31, 2006, the claimant was unable to perform her past relevant work. . . . .
10. The claimant has a skilled work background, but has no skills or semi-skills transferable to other work within the limitations of her residual functional capacity. . . . .
11. From April 23, 2004, through March 31, 2006, considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant could perform and sustain on a regular and continuing basis. . . . .
12. From March 1, 2008, through the date of this decision, both with and without drug addiction and alcoholism (DA&A) included in the assessment, the severity of the claimant's psychotic disorder has medically met the requirements of section 12.03 of Appendix I, Subpart P, Regulations No. 4. . . . .
13. The claimant was not disabled prior to March 1, 2008, but became disabled on that date and has continued to be disabled ...