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Ramirez v. Astrue

October 8, 2010

GEORGE RAMIREZ, 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

I. SUMMARY

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF REMAND

On October 16, 2009, plaintiff George Ramirez ("plaintiff") filed a Complaint seeking review of the Commissioner of Social Security's denial of plaintiff's application for benefits. The parties have consented 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; October 22, 2009 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 Opinion and Order of Remand.

II. BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

On February 28, 2006, plaintiff filed applications for Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance Benefits. (Administrative Record ("AR") 25). Plaintiff asserted that he became disabled on February 20, 2006, due to diabetes, arthritis, high blood presser, and pain in elbows and shoulders. (AR 178-79). The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") examined the medical record and heard testimony from plaintiff (who was represented by counsel) and a vocational expert on April 28, 2008. (AR 97-119).

On June 25, 2008, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled through the date of the decision. (AR 31). Specifically, the ALJ found:

(1) plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, osteoarthritis, bilateral hands, plantar fasciitis, diabetes mellitus and hypertension (AR 27); (2) plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one of the listed impairments (AR 28); (3) plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity to perform a "narrowed range of light exertion" (AR 28); (4) plaintiff*fn1 could not perform his past relevant work (AR 29); (5) there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that plaintiff could perform (AR 30); and (6) plaintiff's allegations regarding his limitations are only partly credible (AR 29).

The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's application for review. (AR 1-4).

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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