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Lee v. Colvin

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

November 26, 2013

KEVIN P. LEE, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF REMAND [DOCKET NOS. 16, 19]

JACQUELINE CHOOLJIAN, Magistrate Judge.

I. SUMMARY

On May 2, 2013, plaintiff Kevin P. Lee ("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 the undersigned 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; May 8, 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 February 23, 2010, plaintiff filed applications for Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance Benefits. (Administrative Record ("AR") 28, 153, 158). Plaintiff asserted that he became disabled on January 1, 2007, due to chronic arthritis and Kohler disease. (AR 28, 201-02). The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") examined the medical record and heard testimony from plaintiff (who was represented by counsel) and a vocational expert on January 31, 2012. (AR 48-95).

On March 9, 2012, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled through the date of the decision. (AR 28-34). Specifically, the ALJ found: (1) plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: obesity, chronic arthritis, degenerative joint disease, congenital clubfoot with recent status post right gastrocnemius lengthening and right foot triple arthrodesis with lateral column shortening with gastrocnemius contracture, and midfoot degenerative arthritis (AR 30); (2) plaintiff's impairments, considered singly or in combination, did not meet or medically equal a listed impairment (AR 30); (3) plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity to perform light work[1] (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b), 416.967(b)) with additional limitations[2] (AR 31); (4) plaintiff could perform his past relevant work as a recycler (AR 34); 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 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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