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Helen Henderson v. Michael J. Astrue

May 30, 2012

HELEN HENDERSON, 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 8, 2011, plaintiff, Helen Henderson ("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 12, 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 December 23, 2008, plaintiff filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits. (Administrative Record ("AR") 82). Plaintiff asserted that she became disabled on December 6, 2008, due to inability to focus and rest, pain in shoulder and neck, irritable bowel, headache, stress, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and depression. (AR 113). The ALJ examined the medical record and heard testimony from plaintiff (who was represented by counsel) on June 15, 2010. (AR 24-37).

On August 27, 2010, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled through the date of the decision. (AR 10-19). Specifically, the ALJ found:

(1) plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairment: bipolar affective disorder (AR 12); (2) plaintiff's impairments, considered singly or in combination, did not meet or medically equal a listed impairment (AR 12-13); (3) plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels, but could not perform work as a security guard around persons that are mostly under the age of 18, such as in primary schools or high schools (AR 13); (4) plaintiff could not perform her past relevant work (AR 18); (5) there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that plaintiff can perform (AR 18-19); and (6) plaintiff's allegations regarding her limitations were not credible to the extent they were inconsistent with the ALJ's residual functional capacity assessment (AR 16).

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. If not, proceed to step two.

(2) Is the claimant's alleged impairment sufficiently severe to limit the claimant's ability to work? If not, the claimant is not disabled. If so, proceed to step three.

(3) Does the claimant's impairment, or combination of impairments, meet or equal an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1? If so, the ...


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