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Jennie P. Beltran v. Michael J. Astrue

May 2, 2012

JENNIE P. BELTRAN, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California R. Gary Klausner, District Judge, Presiding D.C. No. 2:08-cv-02386-RGK-E

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Pregerson, Circuit Judge:

FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

Submitted October 8, 2010*fn1 Pasadena, California

Before: Harry Pregerson, Dorothy W. Nelson, and Sandra S. Ikuta, Circuit Judges.

Opinion by Judge Pregerson; Dissent by Judge Ikuta

OPINION

Jennie Beltran appeals the district court's grant of summary judgment to the Commissioner of Social Security in its review of the Commissioner's denial of benefits. We have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291, and we reverse.

BACKGROUND

Jennie Beltran is a fifty-six-year-old woman suffering from degenerative joint disease of the left knee and wrist, bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, obesity, heel spurs, degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, status post-surgical correction of a fractured right distal tibia, depression, and alcohol abuse. She filed applications for both Social Security Disability Insurance ("SSDI") benefits and Social Security Income ("SSI") benefits under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act on March 29, 2002, and again on November 20, 2002. In her applications, Beltran alleged a disability onset date of June 30, 2000. The Commissioner denied the request initially and upon reconsideration. Beltran appealed to an administrative law judge ("ALJ") who affirmed the denial of her claim, holding that Beltran did not suffer from a disability as defined under the Social Security Act. Beltran appealed the ALJ's decision, and her case was remanded to the ALJ.

During a second hearing on December 13, 2007, the ALJ concluded that Beltran had met her burden to establish that she could not perform any of her past relevant work due to her physical and mental limitations. The burden then shifted to the agency to show that Beltran would nevertheless be able to perform other work. Thus, the ALJ asked a vocational expert a series of hypothetical questions given Beltran's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity. The vocational expert testified that, but for Beltran's ongoing alcohol abuse, she would have been able to work as a surveil-lance system monitor at all times prior to January 9, 2006. The vocational expert testified that there were 135 regional and 1,680 national surveillance system monitor jobs available.

The ALJ denied Beltran's application for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits and partially denied her application for Social Security Income benefits. The ALJ concluded that there existed a "significant number" of jobs that Beltran could perform prior to January 9, 2006, and therefore found that Beltran was not "disabled" within the meaning of the Social Security Act prior to that date. The ALJ, however, found that Beltran did become disabled on January 9, 2006- her fiftieth birthday-because of the deterioration in her medical condition caused by her alcoholism, and because she was now classified as "an individual closely approaching advanced age."

Beltran appealed the ALJ's decision to the district court. The district court granted summary judgment to the Commissioner on November 18, 2008, affirming the ALJ's decision to deny disability benefits ...


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