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Silva v. Colvin

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

June 26, 2013

JASON JOSEPH SILVA, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, [1] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF REMAND

JACQUELINE CHOOLJIAN, Magistrate Judge.

I. SUMMARY

On January 11, 2013, plaintiff Jason Joseph Silva ("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; January 17, 2013 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 December 19, and December 22, 2008, respectively, plaintiff filed applications for Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance Benefits. (Administrative Record ("AR") 13, 145, 151). Plaintiff asserted that he became disabled on January 20, 2006, due to cervical disc protrusion, cervical discopathy & radiculopathy, traumatic head injury, post-concussion head syndrome, adjustment disorder due to chronic pain, hypersomnia, neurogenic bladder, erectile dysfunction, and spinal cord stimulator implant. (AR 176). The ALJ examined the medical record and heard testimony from plaintiff (who was represented by counsel) on June 1, 2010 and February 3, 2011. (AR 32-63).

On February 18, 2011, the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") determined that plaintiff was not disabled prior to February 28, 2010, but became disabled on February 28, 2010, and remained disabled through the date of the decision. (AR 14, 25). Specifically, the ALJ found: (1) between January 20, 2006 ( i.e., the date on which plaintiff alleges he became disabled) and February 28, 2010 (the date on which plaintiff actually became disabled according to the ALJ), plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairment: status post C6-7 cervical surgery with cord compression residuals[2] (AR 16); (2) since January 20, 2006, plaintiff's impairments, considered singly or in combination, did not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments (AR 18); (3) prior to February 28, 2010, plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity essentially to perform sedentary work with additional exertional and nonexertional limitations (AR 18);[3] (4) plaintiff could not perform his past relevant work (AR 23); (5) prior to February 28, 2010, there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that plaintiff could perform, specifically hand cutter, product folder, and bench hand (AR 23-24); and (6) prior to February 28, 2010, plaintiff's allegations regarding his limitations were not credible to the extent they were inconsistent with the ALJ's residual functional capacity assessment (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 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. ...

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