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Nguyen v. Colvin

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

September 27, 2013

THOMAS NGUYEN, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JACQUELINE CHOOLJIAN, Magistrate Judge.

I. SUMMARY

On April 16, 2013, plaintiff Thomas Nguyen ("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; April 17, 2013 Case Management Order ¶ 5.

Based on the record as a whole and the applicable law, the decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED. The findings of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") are supported by substantial evidence and are free from material error.[1]

II. BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

On October 26, 2010, plaintiff filed applications for Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance Benefits. (Administrative Record ("AR") 124, 129). Plaintiff asserted that he became disabled on January 1, 2010, due to a torn right shoulder tendon, depression, a sleep disorder, high blood pressure, a calcified spinal joint, and pain and numbness in his shoulder, arm and leg. (AR 144). The ALJ examined the medical record and heard testimony from plaintiff (who was represented by counsel and assisted by an interpreter) and a vocational expert on November 14, 2011. (AR 49-68).

On November 30, 2011, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled through the date of the decision. (AR 27-34). Specifically, the ALJ found: (1) plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the cervical and lumbar spine and right shoulder rotator cuff tear (AR 29); (2) plaintiff's impairments, considered singly or in combination, did not meet or medically equal a listed impairment (AR 29-30); (3) plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity to perform the full range of medium work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(c), 416.967(c)[2] (AR 30); (4) plaintiff could perform his past relevant work as a deliveryman and handyman (AR 33); and (5) plaintiff's allegations regarding his limitations were not credible to the extent they were inconsistent with the ALJ's residual functional capacity assessment (AR 32).

The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's application for review. (AR 4).

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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