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Shawn Murphy v. Michael J. Astrue

May 31, 2012

SHAWN MURPHY, 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 AND ORDER OF REMAND

I. SUMMARY

On September 30, 2011, plaintiff Shawn Murphy ("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; October 5, 2011 Case Management Order ¶ 5.

Based on the record as a whole and the applicable law, the decision of the Commissioner is REVERSED AND REMANDED for further proceedings consistent with this Memorandum Opinion and Order of Remand.

II. BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

On July 22, 2008, plaintiff filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits. (Administrative Record ("AR") 176). Plaintiff asserted that he became disabled on December 12, 2007, due to congestive heart failure. (AR 201). The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") examined the medical record and heard testimony from plaintiff (who was represented by counsel), plaintiff's girlfriend, and a vocational expert on December 16, 2009. (AR 27-47). On December 30, 2009, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled through the date of the decision. (AR 18-22). Specifically, the ALJ found: (1) plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: hypertension, congestive heart failure, and Type II diabetes mellitus (AR 20); (2) plaintiff's impairments, considered singly or in combination, did not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments (AR 20-21); (3) plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity to perform light work (20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b)) with certain limitations (AR 21); (4) plaintiff could not*fn1 perform his past relevant work (AR 21-22); (5) there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that plaintiff could perform (AR 22); and (6) plaintiff's allegations regarding his limitations were not entirely credible. (AR 21).

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 claimant's ability to work? If not, the claimant is not ...


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