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Jennifer Hoang Do v. Michael J. Astrue

January 21, 2011

JENNIFER HOANG DO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Jay C. Gandhi United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

I.

INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY

On January 29, 2010, plaintiff Jennifer Hoang Do ("Plaintiff") filed a complaint against defendant Michael J. Astrue ("Defendant"), the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, seeking review of a denial of disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income benefits ("SSI"). [Docket No. 1.] On April 5, 2010, Defendant filed his answer, along with a certified copy of the administrative record. [Docket Nos. 10, 11.]

On April 14, 2010, this matter was transferred to the calendar of the undersigned Magistrate Judge. [Docket No. 12.] Both Plaintiff and Defendant subsequently consented to proceed for all purposes before the Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 636(c). [Docket Nos. 20, 21.]

Pursuant to a February 5, 2010 case management order, Plaintiff submitted a motion for summary judgment or remand ("Plaintiff's Motion") on June 3, 2010. [Docket No. 18.] On July 7, 2010, Defendant submitted his motion for summary judgment ("Defendant's Motion"). [Docket No. 19.] The Court deems the matter suitable for adjudication without oral argument.

In sum, having carefully studied, inter alia, the parties' papers and the administrative record, the Court concludes that, as detailed herein, the Administrate Law Judge inappropriately discounted Plaintiff's subjective complaints and thus remands this matter to the Commissioner in accordance with the principles and instructions enunciated in this Memorandum Opinion and Order.

II.

PERTINENT FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, who was 27 years of age on the date of her administrative hearing, has completed high school and two years of college. (See Administrative Record ("AR") at 16, 20, 91, 109.) Her past relevant work includes employment as a tutor, library page, receptionist, and fast food cashier. (Id. at 14.)

Plaintiff protectively filed for DIB and SSI on October 22, 2007, alleging that she has been disabled since November 15, 2005 due to a small cerebellum and weak muscles affecting mobility and balance. (AR at 43, 91-93, 94-97, 100.) Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration, after which she filed a timely request for a hearing. (Id. at 34, 35, 36, 37, 38-42, 43-47, 48-49.)

On June 22, 2009, Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, appeared and testified at a hearing before an ALJ. (AR at 16, 18-28.) The ALJ also heard testimony from Plaintiff's mother Na Nguyen. (Id. at 29-32.)

On September 11, 2009, the ALJ denied Plaintiff's request for benefits. (AR at 10-15.) Applying the well-known five-step sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found, at step one, that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged onset date of disability. (Id. at 12.)

At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffers from a severe impairment of the "central nervous system." (ARat 12(emphasis omitted).)

At step three, the ALJ determined that the evidence does not demonstrate that Plaintiff's impairment, either individually or in combination, meet or medically equal the severity of any listing set forth in the Social Security regulations.*fn1 (AR at 12.)

The ALJ then assessed Plaintiff's residual functional capacity*fn2 ("RFC") and determined that she is limited to sedentary work. (AR at 12.) The ALJ also found that with respect to "standing and walking," Plaintiff "is limited to 2 hours of an 8-hour workday." (Id. (emphasis omitted).)

The ALJ found, at step four, that Plaintiff lacks the ability to perform her past relevant work. (AR at 14.)

At step five, based on Plaintiff's RFC, the ALJ found that "there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that [Plaintiff] can perform." (AR at 14 (emphasis omitted).) Thus, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not suffering from a disability as defined by the Act. (Id. at 10, 15.)

Plaintiff filed a timely request for review of the ALJ's decision, which was denied by the Appeals Council. (AR at 1-4, 6.) The ALJ's decision stands as ...


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