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Travis William Suiter v. Michael J. Astrue

July 28, 2011

TRAVIS WILLIAM SUITER,
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

Travis William Suiter ("Plaintiff") seeks review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the "Commissioner" or the "Agency") to deny his application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") Benefits, and requests this Court remand this matter 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. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff applied for Title XVI SSI Benefits and Title II Social Security Disability Insurance ("SSDI") Benefits on April 10, 2007, claiming disability since December 31, 2003. (Administrative Record ("AR") 107-12, 113-14). The Agency initially denied both claims on August 31, 2007. (AR 60-61, 64-68). Plaintiff requested reconsideration on September 24, 2007. (AR 69). The Agency denied his application again on December 10, 2007. (AR 62-63, 70-79). Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a Request For Hearing By Administrative Law Judge on January 29, 2008. (AR 80-81).

The Agency scheduled a hearing for October 21, 2008, wherein Plaintiff testified before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") in Los Angeles, California. (AR 22-40, 86-95). The hearing was ultimately continued to January 13, 2009 to give Plaintiff time to provide the Agency with more records of his most recent medical treatment. (AR 22-40, 41-59). At the January 13, 2009 hearing Plaintiff again testified before the ALJ. (AR 41-59). Sandra Schneider, a vocational expert also testified at this hearing. (Id.). At the October 21, 2008 and January 13, 2009 hearings, Plaintiff was represented by the Law Offices of Bill LaTour. (AR 22-40, 41-59, 82-83). The ALJ denied Plaintiff's application for benefits on September 8, 2009. (AR 9-21). On November 12, 2009, Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ's decision. (AR 6-8). On May 18, 2010, the Agency denied Plaintiff's request, (AR 1-3), and Plaintiff commenced this action on July 22, 2010.

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*fn1 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 so, proceed to step three.

(3) Does the claimant's impairment meet or equal one of the specific impairments described in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1? If so, the claimant is found disabled. If not, proceed to step four.

(4) Is the claimant capable of performing his past work? If so, the claimant is found not disabled. If ...


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