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Cheryl A. Tate v. Michael J. Astrue

September 11, 2012

CHERYL A. TATE,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Janis L. Sammartino United States District Judge

ORDER (1) DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND (2) GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF Nos. 16, 18)

I.

INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the Court on cross-motions for summary judgment. Plaintiff Cheryl A. Tate ("Plaintiff") brings her motion under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g),*fn1 seeking judicial review of the Commissioner of Social Security's ("Commissioner") final decision denying her claim for Disability Insurance Benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act. Plaintiff asks the Court to grant her motion for summary judgment, reversing the Commissioner's decision, because Plaintiff argues the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") (1) failed to weigh the evidence and resolve material conflicts, and (2) improperly rejected Plaintiff's subjective complaints. The Commissioner concurrently seeks summary judgment to affirm the ALJ's decision.

The parties' motions were originally referred to U.S. Magistrate Judge William McCurine, Jr. This Court withdraws its referral and will rule on both motions, which it finds suitable for resolution on the papers. See S.D. Cal. Civ. R. 7.1(d)(1). After careful review of the moving and opposition papers, the administrative record, the facts, and the law,the Court DENIES Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and GRANTS Defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment.

II.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On February 20, 2007, Plaintiff applied for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") alleging disability beginning September 30, 2006. (See Administrative R. ("AR") 224--28,*fn2 ECF No. 12) The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's application initially and also on reconsideration. (Id. at 131--32) Plaintiff testified at a hearing before an ALJ. (Id. at 62--101)The ALJ found Plaintiff ineligible for disability benefits because Plaintiff had a residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work with some limitations. (Id. at 136--49) The Appeals Council declined review of the ALJ's decision and thus the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner. (Id. at 1--6)

On March 29, 2011, Plaintiff filed the instant complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) in order to obtain judicial review of a "final decision" from the Commissioner denying her claim for DIB. (Compl., ECF No. 1) Defendant filed an answer to the complaint on November 15, 2011. (Answer, ECF No. 11) On March 8, 2012, Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment. (Pl.'s MSJ, ECF No. 16) Defendant filed a cross-motion for summary judgment onApril 9, 2012. (Def.'s MSJ, ECF No. 18) // //

III.

DISCUSSION

1. Legal Standard

A claimant is entitled to disability benefits if, considering her age, education, and work experience, she is unable to perform the work she previously performed and unable "to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months . . . ."

42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).The Act further provides that an individual shall be determined to be under a disability only if his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy, regardless of whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or whether he would be hired if he applied for work.

42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A).

The Secretary of the Social Security Administration has established a five-step sequential evaluation process for determining whether a person is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. Step one determines whether the claimant is engaged in "substantial gainful activity." If she is, disability benefits are denied. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b), 416.920(b). If she is not, the decisionmaker proceeds to step two, which determines whether the claimant has a medically severe ...


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