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Darling v. Colvin

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

September 4, 2013

LESLIE A. DARLING, 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 February 14, 2013, plaintiff Leslie A. Darling ("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; February 19, 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 October 12, 2007, plaintiff filed an application for Supplemental Security Income. (Administrative Record ("AR") 108). Plaintiff asserted that he became disabled on February 1, 2007, due to back, groin and leg pain. (AR 138). The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") examined the medical record and heard testimony from plaintiff (who was represented by counsel) and a vocational expert on February 24, 2010 ("Pre-Remand Hearing"). (AR 20-45).

On April 2, 2010, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled through the date of the decision ("Pre-Remand Decision"). (AR 8-16). The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's application for review of the Pre-Remand Decision. (AR 1).

On July 19, 2011, this Court entered judgment remanding the case for further proceedings based upon the parties' Stipulation to Voluntary Remand Pursuant to Sentence Four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and to Entry of Judgment. (AR 414-15). The Appeals Council in turn remanded the case for a new hearing. (AR 418-19). On remand the ALJ heard testimony from plaintiff (who again appeared with counsel), and a vocational expert on August 14, 2012 ("Post-Remand Hearing"). (AR 368-409).

On November 9, 2012, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled for the period of October 12, 2007 ( i.e., when plaintiff filed the benefits application at issue in this case) to February 3, 2011 ( i.e., until plaintiff was granted benefits commencing on February 4, 2011 based on a subsequent application for Supplemental Security Income) ("Post-Remand Decision").[2] (AR 353-62). Specifically, the ALJ found that from October 12, 2007 to February 3, 2011: (1) plaintiff suffered from the severe impairments of obesity, low back pain, degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine, and degenerative joint disease of the right hip, and the non-severe impairments of hypertension and hyperlipidemia (AR 355-56); (2) plaintiff's impairments, considered singly or in combination, did not meet or medically equal a listed impairment (AR 356); (3) plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity to perform a range of light work (20 C.F.R. § 416.967(b) with additional exertional and nonexertional limitations[3] (AR 356-57); (4) plaintiff had no past relevant work (AR 359); (5) there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that plaintiff could perform, specifically packager, inspector and assembler (AR 360); and (6) plaintiff's allegations regarding his limitations were not credible to the extent they were inconsistent with the ALJ's residual functional capacity assessment (AR 357).

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 the claimant previously performed and incapable of performing any other ...


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