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Sharpe v. Colvin

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

December 10, 2013

FRANCIS M. SHARPE, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

MEMORDANDUM AND ORDER

SUZANNE H. SEGAL, Magistrate Judge.

I.

INTRODUCTION

Francis M. Sharpe ("Plaintiff") seeks review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the "Commissioner" or the "Agency") denying her Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income. The parties consented, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge. For the reasons stated below, the decision of the Agency is REVERSED and REMANDED for further proceedings.

II.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On July 23, 2009, Plaintiff filed applications for Title II Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Title XVI Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). (AR 177, 180). In both applications, Plaintiff alleged a disability onset date of March 1, 2008. (Id.). The Agency denied Plaintiff's applications on October 1, 2009. (AR 99-100). On December 3, 2009, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). (AR 111-12). Plaintiff appeared and testified at a hearing held before ALJ Dennis T. Bennett on August 16, 2010. (AR 10). The hearing was continued because Plaintiff's representative did not appear at the hearing. (Id.). The ALJ also ordered consultative examinations in neurology and psychiatry. (Id.). Plaintiff appeared and testified at a second hearing before the ALJ on April 4, 2011. (Id.). At the conclusion of the hearing, the ALJ ordered a consultative examination in psychology. (Id.). Plaintiff appeared and testified before the ALJ for a third time on August 16, 2011. (AR 11). On August 26, 2011, the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff DIB and SSI. (AR 26). Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ's decision, which the Appeals Council denied on February 5, 2013. (AR 1-3). Plaintiff filed the instant action on March 15, 2013

III.

THE FIVE-STEP SEQUENTIAL EVALUATION PROCESS

To qualify for disability benefits, a claimant must demonstrate a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that prevents her from engaging in substantial gainful activity and that is expected to result in death or to last for a continuous period of at least twelve months. Reddick v. Chater , 157 F.3d 715, 721 (9th Cir. 1998) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A)). The impairment must render the claimant incapable of performing the work she 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)).

To decide if a claimant is entitled to benefits, an ALJ conducts a five-step inquiry. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. The steps are:

(1) Is the claimant presently engaged in substantial gainful activity? If so, the claimant is found not disabled. If not, proceed to step two.
(2) Is the claimant's impairment severe? If not, the claimant is found not disabled. If so, proceed to step three.
(3) Does the claimant's impairment meet or equal one of the specific impairments described in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1? If so, the claimant is found disabled. If not, proceed to step four.
(4) Is the claimant capable of performing his past work? If so, the claimant is found not disabled. If not, proceed to step five.
(5) Is the claimant able to do any other work? If not, the claimant is found disabled. If so, the claimant is found not disabled.

Tackett , 180 F.3d at 1098-99; see also Bustamante v. Massanari , 262 F.3d 949, 953-54 (9th Cir. 2001) (citations omitted); 20 C.F.R. §§ ...


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