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Ortiz v. Colvin

United States District Court, C.D. California

June 30, 2016

JANET ORTIZ, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          HONORABLE JACQUELINE CHOOLJIAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. SUMMARY

         On July 6, 2015, Janet Ortiz (“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; July 7, 2015 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.

         II. BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

         On March 30, 2012, plaintiff filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits alleging disability beginning on December 30, 2010, due to multiple sclerosis, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis in the back, seizures, and memory loss. (Administrative Record (“AR”) 19, 92, 110). The ALJ examined the medical record and heard testimony from plaintiff (who was represented by counsel) and a vocational expert on December 10, 2013. (AR 34-46).

         On December 19, 2013, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled through March 31, 2012 (i.e., the “date last insured”). (AR 19-25). Specifically, the ALJ found that during the period from December 30, 2010 through March 31, 2012 (“the relevant period”): (1) plaintiff suffered from medically determinable impairments of multiple sclerosis, carpal tunnel syndrome, seizure disorder, and lumber spine discogenic disease (AR 21); (2) plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that was severe (AR 21); and (3) plaintiff’s allegations regarding the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of subjective symptoms were not credible (AR 24).

         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 required to use the following five-step sequential evaluation process:

(1) Is the claimant presently engaged in substantial gainful activity? If so, the claimant is not disabled. If ...

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