The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Jacqueline Chooljian United States Magistrate Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF REMAND
On September 10, 2012, plaintiff Margo Willis ("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 17, 2012 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 April 13, 2009, plaintiff filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits. (Administrative Record ("AR") 103). Plaintiff asserted that she became disabled on June 15, 2006, due to cervical and lower lumbar injuries. (AR 128). The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") examined the medical record and heard testimony from plaintiff (who was represented by counsel) and a vocational expert on April 5, 2011. (AR 33-46).
On May 6, 2011, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled through the date of the decision. (AR 10-18). Specifically, the ALJ found: (1) plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: back fusion at L5-S1, disc replacement at L4-L5, and Hepatitis C (AR 12); (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. § 404.1567(b)) with additional limitations (AR *fn1 13); (4) plaintiff could perform her past relevant work as an office manager (AR 18); and (5) plaintiff's allegations regarding her limitations were not credible to the extent they were inconsistent with the ALJ's residual functional capacity assessment (AR 14-15).
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 any 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 not less than 12 months." Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1110 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A)) (internal quotation marks omitted). 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. ...