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Estela Garcia v. Michael J. Astrue

June 16, 2011

ESTELA GARCIA, 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 October 26, 2010, plaintiff Estela Garcia ("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; November 1, 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 October 15, 2007, plaintiff filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits. (Administrative Record ("AR") 8). Plaintiff asserted that she became disabled on November 21, 2007, due to postpoliomyelitis syndrome. (AR 120). The ALJ examined the medical record and heard testimony from plaintiff and a vocational expert on September 3, 2009. (AR 24).

On September 28, 2009, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled through the date of the decision. (AR 17). Specifically, the ALJ found:

(1) plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: history of poliomyelitis with left lower extremity weakness, and depression (AR 10);

(2) plaintiff's impairments, considered singly or in combination, did not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments (AR 10); (3) plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity to lift and carry 10 pounds frequently, stand or walk two hours and sit six hours in an eight-hour workday with additional exertional and non-exertional limitations (AR 10); (4) plaintiff could not perform her past*fn2 relevant work (AR 15); (5) there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that plaintiff could perform, specifically packager and assembler (AR 16); and (6) plaintiff's allegations regarding her limitations were not credible to the extent they were inconsistent with the ALJ's residual functional capacity assessment (AR 15).

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 she 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 she 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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