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Martinez v. Astrue

September 28, 2010

MARK P. MARTINEZ, 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 August 20, 2008, plaintiff Mark P. Martinez ("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; August 25, 2008 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 October 19, 2005, plaintiff filed an application for Supplemental Security Income benefits. (Administrative Record ("AR") 11, 63). Plaintiff asserted that he became disabled on October 19, 2005, due to back pain, surgery on his right hand, and trouble sleeping. (AR 98-99). The ALJ examined the medical record and heard testimony from plaintiff (who was represented by counsel) and a vocational expert on March 17, 2008. (AR 223-42).

On April 24, 2008, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled from the date the application was filed (i.e., October 19, 2005) through the date of the decision. (AR 12). Specifically, the ALJ found: (1) plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine; cellulitis and lipomas, status post excision; obesity; right hand nerve damage; and right shoulder impingement syndrome (AR 13); (2) plaintiff's alleged mental impairments (i.e., polysubstance abuse and mood swings, both in remission) were not severe (AR 13-14); (3) plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one of the listed impairments (AR 14); (4) plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity to perform light work with certain exertional limitations (AR 15); (5) plaintiff had no past relevant work (AR*fn2 19); (6) there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that plaintiff could perform (AR 19); and (6) plaintiff's testimony regarding his limitations warranted only partial credit (AR 18).

The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's application for review. (AR 3-5).

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 ...


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