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Shelia Williams v. Michael J. Astrue

July 29, 2011

SHELIA WILLIAMS, 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 December 1, 2010, plaintiff Shelia Williams ("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; December 8, 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 May 9, 2008, plaintiff filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits. (Administrative Record ("AR") 10, 106). Plaintiff asserted that she became disabled on February 13, 2008, due to head squamous cell carcinoma. (AR 116). The ALJ examined the medical record and heard testimony from plaintiff, plaintiff's sister, and a vocational expert on December 18, 2009. (AR 17-37).

On January 21, 2010, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled through the date of the decision. (AR 16). Specifically, the ALJ found:

(1) plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: diabetes and hypertension (AR 12); (2) plaintiff's impairments, considered singly or in combination, did not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments (AR 12-13); (3) plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity to perform less than a full range of light work (20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b)) (AR 13); (4) plaintiff could*fn2perform her past relevant work as such work is generally performed (AR 15); and(5) plaintiff's allegations regarding her limitations were not fully credible (AR 14). 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 the claimant 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 claimant 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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