United States District Court, C.D. California
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
SUZANNE H. SEGAL, Magistrate Judge.
Katherine Elizabeth Rohrbacher ("Plaintiff") seeks review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the "Commissioner" or the "Agency") denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Childhood Disability 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 administrative proceedings consistent with this decision.
On July 13, 2011, Plaintiff filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits, claiming that she became disabled on August 14, 2003. (Administrative Record ("AR") 145-48). The Agency denied Plaintiff's application on September 2, 2011, after determining that Plaintiff failed to establish that she was disabled. (AR 78). The Agency denied reconsideration on February 17, 2012. (AR 82).
Plaintiff requested a hearing, which was held before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") David J. Agatstein on October 23, 2012 (the "ALJ Hearing"). (AR 45-73). H.C. Alexander III, M.D., and Julian Kivowitz, M.D., testified at the hearing. (AR 30, 53-58, 59-67). Vocational expert ("VE") Martin G. Brodwin also testified. (AR 30, 58-59, 72-73). On December 11, 2012, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. (AR 30-40). Plaintiff sought review before the Appeals Council (AR 7-11), which the Council denied on May 14, 2014. (AR 1-3). The Council's determination became the final decision of the Commissioner. (AR 1). Plaintiff filed the instant action on June 27, 2014. (Dkt. No. 3).
THE FIVE-STEP SEQUENTIAL EVALUATION PROCESS
To qualify for disability benefits, a claimant must demonstrate a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that prevents him 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 he 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. ...