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Clark v. Colvin

United States District Court, C.D. California

January 12, 2015

DOLORES MARIA CLARK, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

KENLY KIYA KATO, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Dolores Maria Clark seeks review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying her application for Title II Disability Insurance Benefits. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). For the reasons stated below, the Commissioner's decision is REVERSED and this action is REMANDED for further proceedings consistent with this Order.

I.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff Dolores Maria Clark ("Plaintiff") brings this action seeking to overturn the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (hereinafter the "Commissioner" or the "Agency") denying her Title II application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"). Plaintiff filed her initial claim on July 7, 2010 alleging a disability onset date of July 16, 2009. Administrative Record ("AR") at 85. This claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Id . 87-90; 92-96. On May 11, 2011, Plaintiff filed a written request for hearing. Id. at 97. On March 6, 2012, a hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Joseph P. Lisiecki III. Id. at 64.

On May 10, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's application. Id. at 24-39. On June 1, 2012, Plaintiff asked the Agency's Appeals Council to review the ALJ's decision. Id. at 21-22. On December 31, 2013, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. Id. at 5-10.

On February 23, 2014, Plaintiff filed the instant action. This matter is before the Court on the parties' Joint Stipulation ("JS"), filed November 17, 2014, which the Court has taken under submission.

II.

RELEVANT FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was born on April 26, 1960, and her alleged disability onset date is July 16, 2009. AR at 68. She was 49 years old at the time of the onset date, and 51 years old at the time of the hearing before the ALJ. Plaintiff graduated from high school. See id. at 142. In her Disability Report, Plaintiff reported she worked as a medical administrator from 1987 until May 2009. Id . Plaintiff alleges disability based upon severe spinal stinosis due to injury to both shoulders and depression. Id. at 141.

III.

STANDARD FOR EVALUATING DISABILITY

To qualify for DIB, 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). 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).

To decide if a claimant is disabled, and therefore 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 listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1? If so, the claimant is found disabled. If not, proceed to step four.[1]
(4) Is the claimant capable of performing work she has done in the past? 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 ...

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