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Thomas William Martins v. Michael J. Astrue

July 1, 2011

THOMAS WILLIAM MARTINS,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Suzanne H. Segal United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

I.

INTRODUCTION

Thomas William Martins ("Plaintiff") seeks to overturn the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the "Commissioner" or the "Agency") to deny his application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") Benefits. Alternatively, he asks that this Court remand Plaintiff's case for further review.

The parties consented, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge. For the reasons stated below, the decision of the Commissioner is REVERSED and the case is REMANDED for further proceedings consistent with this decision.

II.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

Plaintiff protectively applied for Title XVI SSI benefits on April 18, 2004, claiming disability since October 15, 1989. (Administrative Record ("AR") 47, 66). The Agency initially denied Plaintiff's claims on December 27, 2004. (AR 31-35). Plaintiff requested reconsideration on March 1, 2005. (AR 36). The Agency denied his claims again on April 27, 2005. (AR 37-42). Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a Request For Hearing By Administrative Law Judge on August 18, 2005. (AR 46).

The Agency scheduled a teleconference video hearing on October 19, 2007, wherein Plaintiff testified from Santa Barbara, California before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") in Phoenix, Arizona. (AR 266-93). At this hearing, Plaintiff waived his right to counsel. (AR 270). Plaintiff's mother and father, Merle and Anthony Martins, also testified at this hearing. (AR 283-93).*fn1 The ALJ denied Plaintiff's claim on March 27, 2008. (AR 16-26). On April 2, 2008, Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ's decision. (AR 15). On July 17, 2010, the Agency denied Plaintiff's request, (AR 5-7), and Plaintiff commenced this action on September 17, 2010. (Plaintiff's Complaint at 2).

On April 24, 2009, Plaintiff filed a new SSI application claiming the same medical and mental impairments as the application at issue in this case. (Plaintiff's Memorandum In Support of Plaintiff's Complaint ("Plaintiff's Memorandum") at 2). The Agency approved this application, and Plaintiff has been receiving SSI since May 2009. (Id.).

III.

THE FIVE-STEP SEQUENTIAL EVALUATION PROCESS

To qualify for disability benefits, a claimant must demonstrate a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that prevents him from engaging in substantial gainful activity*fn2 and that is expected to result in death or to last for a continuous period of at least twelve months. Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 721 (9th Cir. 1998) (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)).

To decide if a claimant is entitled to benefits, an ALJ conducts a five-step inquiry. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. The steps are:

(1) Is the claimant presently engaged in substantial gainful activity? If so, the claimant is found not disabled. If not, proceed to step two.

(2) Is the claimant's impairment severe? If not, the claimant is found not disabled. If ...


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