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Takahashi v. Colvin

United States District Court, C.D. California

November 13, 2014

GAIL TAKAHASHI, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration Defendant.

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

SUZANNE H. SEGAL, Magistrate Judge.

I.

INTRODUCTION

Gail Takahashi ("Plaintiff") seeks review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the "Commissioner" or the "Agency") denying her application for a period of disability and Disability Insurance Benefits. 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 Commissioner is REVERSED and REMANDED for further proceedings.

II.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On July 9, 2010, Plaintiff filed an application for Insurance Benefits, claiming that she became disabled on May 14, 2007. (Administrative Record ("AR") 145-47). The Agency denied Plaintiff's application on October 15, 2010, based on a determination that Plaintiff's condition was "not severe enough to keep [her] from working" and that she could still perform her former job as a computer operator. (AR 92). On December 2, 2010, Plaintiff filed a request for reconsideration with the agency, on the basis that she was "totally disabled due to [her] physical and emotional condition." (AR 95). The Agency denied reconsideration on July 22, 2011. (AR 96-100).

Plaintiff requested a hearing, which was held before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Sally Reason on April 30, 2012 ("ALJ Hearing"). (AR 48-72). Elizabeth Brown-Ramos, a Vocational Expert ("VE") also testified. (AR 67-71, 128). On May 15, 2012, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. (AR 19). Plaintiff sought review before the Appeals Council (AR 18), which the Council denied on June 7, 2013. (AR 11-13). The Council's determination made the ALJ's decision final. (AR 11). Plaintiff filed the instant action on July 9, 2013.

II.

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. ...

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