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Sarita Sandoval v. Michael J. Astrue

December 15, 2010

SARITA SANDOVAL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, ORDER COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



This social security action was submitted to the court without oral argument for ruling on plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment. For the reasons explained below, plaintiff's motion is granted, the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner) is reversed, and the matter is remanded with instructions to reinstate plaintiff's benefits as of January 16, 2007.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On August 3, 2005, plaintiff filed applications for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) under Title II of the Social Security Act (the Act) and for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under Title XVI of the Act, alleging disability beginning on March 2, 2005 due to panic attacks, anxiety, and depression. (Transcript (Tr.) at 72-89.) Plaintiff's applications were denied initially on October 27, 2005, and upon reconsideration on January 23, 2006. (Tr. at 57-61, 53- 54, 47-52.) A hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) on April 20, 2007. (Tr. at 326-48.) Plaintiff was represented by counsel and testified at the hearing. In a partially favorable decision issued on June 13, 2007, the ALJ found plaintiff disabled from March 2, 2005, through January 15, 2007, but not thereafter, due to medical improvement that occurred on January 16, 2007. (Tr. at 21-34.) The ALJ entered the following findings:

1. The claimant met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act as of March 2, 2005, the date the claimant became disabled.

2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 2, 2005, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1520(b), 404.1571 et seq., 416.920(b) and 416.971 et seq.).

3. At all times relevant to this decision, the claimant has had the following severe impairments: a major depressive disorder and a panic disorder with agoraphobia. (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).

4. From March 2, 2005 through January 15, 2007, the period during which the claimant was disabled, the claimant did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled an impairment listed in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d) and 416.920(d)). There is no evidence that the claimant's impairments either meet or equal the level of severity required for an impairment under Sections 12.04 (Affective Disorders) or 12.06 (Anxiety-Related Disorders)

5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that, from March 2, 2005 through January 15, 2007, the claimant's mental impairments prevented her performing the basic mental demands of sustained, competitive, remunerative work activity, as described in 20 CFR 404.1545(c), 416.945(c), and Social Security Ruling 85-15.

6. From March 2, 2005 through January 15, 2007, the claimant was unable to perform her past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).

7. The claimant was born on March 25, 1976 and was 28 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-44, on the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 404.1563 and 416.963).

8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564 and 416.964).

9. The claimant's acquired job skills do not transfer to other occupations within the residual functional capacity assessed for the period from March 2, 2005 through January 15, 2007 (20 CFR 404.1568 and 416.968).

10. From March 2, 2005 through January 15, 2007, considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there were no jobs that existed in significant number in the national economy that the claimant could have performed (20 CFR 404.1560(c), 404.1566, 416.960(c), and 416.966).

11. The claimant was under a disability, as defined by the Social Security Act, from March 2, 2005 through January 15, 2007 (20 CFR 404.1520(g) and 416.920(g)).

12. Medical improvements occurred as of January 16, 2007, the date the claimant's disability ended (20 CFR 404.1594(b)(1) and 416.994(b)(1)(i)).

13. Beginning on January 16, 2007, the claimant has not had an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the impairments listed in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1594(f)(2) and 416.994(b)(5)(i)).

14. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that, beginning on January 16, 2007, the claimant has had the residual functional capacity to perform simple unskilled work without frequent public or fellow employee contact.

15. The medical improvement that has occurred is related to the ability to work (20 CFR 404.1594(b)(4)(i) and 416.994(b)(1)(iv)(A)).

16. Beginning on January 16, 2007, the claimant has been unable to perform her past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).

17. Beginning on January 16, 2007, transferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability because using the Medical Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding that the claimant is "not disabled," whether or not the claimant has transferable job skills (See SSR 82-41 and 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).

18. Beginning on January 16, 2007, considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, the claimant has been able to perform a significant number of jobs in the national economy (20 CFR 404.1560(c), 404.1566, 416.960(c), and 416.966).

19. The claimant's disability ended on January 16, 2007 (20 CFR 404.1594(f)(8) and 416.994(b)(5)(vii)).

(Tr. at 27-33.)

On April 13, 2009, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision. (Tr. at 4-6.) Plaintiff sought judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 405(g) by ...


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