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Arvin Howard Roberts v. Michael J. Astrue

March 27, 2012

ARVIN HOWARD ROBERTS, 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 September 2, 2011, plaintiff Arvin Howard Roberts ("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; September 7, 2011 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 February 27, 2008, plaintiff filed applications for Supplemental Security

Income and Disability Insurance Benefits. (Administrative Record ("AR") 56, 209, 213). Plaintiff asserted that he became disabled on July 1, 2006, due to an artificial heart valve. (AR 225). Plaintiff subsequently amended the alleged onset date to December 28, 2008 and withdrew his application for Disability Insurance Benefits. (AR 10, 42, 56). The ALJ examined the medical record and heard testimony from plaintiff (who was represented by counsel) and a vocational expert on January 26, 2010. (AR 21-38). On February 26, 2010, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled through the date of the decision. (AR 56-61).

On January 14, 2011, the Appeals Council granted review, vacated the ALJ's February 26, 2010 decision, and remanded the matter for further administrative proceedings. (AR 10, 164-66). The ALJ again examined the medical record and heard testimony from plaintiff (who was represented by counsel) on March 30, 2011. (AR 39-48).

On April 21, 2011, the ALJ again determined that plaintiff was not disabled through the date of the decision. (AR 10-17). Specifically, the ALJ found:*fn2

(1) plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: aortic valve replacement and degenerative disc disease of the thoracic and lumbar spine (AR 13); (2) plaintiff's impairments, considered singly or in combination, did not meet or medically equal a listed impairment (AR 13); (3) plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity to perform light work (20 C.F.R. § 416.967(b)) with certain additional limitations (AR 13); (4) plaintiff could not perform his past relevant*fn3 work (AR 16); (5) there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that plaintiff could perform, specifically garment sorter (AR 16-17); and (6) plaintiff's allegations regarding his limitations were not credible to the extent they were inconsistent with the ALJ's residual functional capacity assessment (AR 14).

The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's second 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 ...


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