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Ricardo Chavez v. Michael J. Astrue

October 7, 2011

RICARDO CHAVEZ,
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

Ricardo Chavez ("Plaintiff") brings this action seeking to overturn the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner" or the "Agency") denying his application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). The parties consented, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636, to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge. For the reasons stated below, the decision of the Agency is REVERSED and REMANDED for further proceedings.

II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff filed an application for SSI on March 8, 2007 alleging a disability onset date of March 1, 2007, due to affective mood disorders and a learning disorder. (Administrative Record ("AR") 73). The Agency initially denied Plaintiff's claim on April 10, 2007. (Id.). When the Agency denied Plaintiff's application on reconsideration, Plaintiff requested a hearing. (AR 115). On October 31, 2008, Plaintiff appeared and testified at a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). (AR 18-50). He also appeared and testified at a supplemental hearing held before the same ALJ on January 23, 2009. (AR 51-72). On April 23, 2009, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. (AR 5-17). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on November 20, 2010 (AR 1-3) making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Agency. Plaintiff subsequently commenced the instant action.

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, which is expected to*fn1 result in death or 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 render claimant incapable of performing any other substantial gainful employment existing 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. § 416.920. The steps are:

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

(2) Is claimant's impairment severe? If not, the claimant is found not disabled. If so, proceed to step three.

(3) Does claimant's impairment meet or equal the requirements for any impairment listed at 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 not, proceed to step five.

(5) Is the claimant able to do any other work? If not, the claimant is found disabled. If so, the claimant is found not disabled.

Tackett, 180 F.3d at 1098-99; see also Bustamante v. Massanari, 262 F.3d 949, 953-54 (9th Cir. 2001); 20 ...


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