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Quinones v. Colvin

United States District Court, C.D. California

June 29, 2015

ROSA H. QUINONES, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JACQUELINE CHOOLJIAN, Magistrate Judge.

I. SUMMARY

On September 5, 2014, plaintiff Rosa H. Quinones ("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; September 11, 2014 Case Management Order ¶ 5.

Based on the record as a whole and the applicable law, the decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED. The findings of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") are supported by substantial evidence and are free from material error.[1]

II. BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

On August 24, 2011, plaintiff filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits. (Administrative Record ("AR") 142). Plaintiff asserted that she became disabled on February 10, 2011, due to rheumatoid arthritis, spinal surgery, diabetes, and sleep apnea. (AR 172). The ALJ examined the medical record and heard testimony from plaintiff (who was represented by counsel), a medical expert, and a vocational expert on February 13, 2013. (AR 36-57).

On March 19, 2013, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled through December 31, 2012 ( i.e., the "date last insured"). (AR 20-31). Specifically, the ALJ found that through the date last insured: (1) plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: diabetes mellitus type II, rheumatoid arthritis, interstitial cystitis, asthma, discogenic disease of the lumbar spine (status post L4-5 fusion), and obstructive sleep apnea. (AR 22); (2) plaintiff's impairments, considered singly or in combination, did not meet or medically equal a listed impairment (AR 23-25); (3) plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work (20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(a)) with additional limitations[2] (AR 25); (4) plaintiff could perform her past relevant work as an Order Clerk and as a Bookkeeper (AR 29-30); and (5) plaintiff's allegations regarding her limitations were not entirely credible (AR 26).

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 the 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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