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Shamah Moody v. Michael J. Astrue

May 26, 2011

SHAMAH MOODY, 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 September 1, 2010, plaintiff Shamah Moody ("plaintiff") filed aComplaint 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; September 7, 2010 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 August 15, 2008, plaintiff filed applications for Supplemental Security Income benefits and Disability Insurance Benefits. (Administrative Record ("AR") 9, 122, 125). Plaintiff asserted that he became disabled on January 1, 2000, due to schizophrenia, severe depression and anxiety. (AR 150). The ALJ examined the medical record and heard testimony from plaintiff (who was represented by counsel), a medical expert and a vocational expert on February 24, 2010. (AR 22).

On April 6, 2010, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was disabled through the date of the decision, but was not eligible to receive benefits because plaintiff's substance use disorder was a contributing factor material to any disability caused by plaintiff's severe impairments. (AR 10, 21). Specifically, the ALJ found:

(1) plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: depressive disorder not otherwise specified, borderline intellectual functioning, and polysubstance abuse (alcohol and marijuana) (AR 12); (2) plaintiff's impairments, including the substance use disorder, meet Listings 12.04 and 12.09 (AR 12-14); (3) plaintiff would continue to suffer from a severe impairment or combination of impairments if he discontinued substance use (AR 14); (4) if plaintiff discontinued substance use he would not suffer from an impairment or combination of impairments that would meet or medically equal any of the listed impairments (AR 14-15); (5) if plaintiff discontinued substance use he would retain the residual functional capacity to perform less than a full range of light work (20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b), 416.967(b)) with additional exertional and non-exertional limitations (AR 15);*fn2(6) plaintiff had no past relevant work (AR 19); (7) if plaintiff discontinued substance use there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that plaintiff could perform, specifically small items assembly and production inspector, both limited to items weighing less than one pound (AR 20); and (8) plaintiff's allegations regarding his limitations were not credible to the extent they were inconsistent with the ALJ's residual functional capacity assessment (AR 17).

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

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 natinal 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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