United States District Court, C.D. California
PAMELA SUE CASTRO, As heir and representative of the Estate of Fernando Castro, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
DECISION AND ORDER
E. BIANCHINI UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
February of 2013, Fernando Castro (“Claimant”)
applied for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental
Security Income (“SSI”) benefits under the Social
Security Act. The Commissioner of Social Security denied the
applications.Claimant passed away in June of 2015 and
Plaintiff was substituted as Claimant's heir and
representative. Plaintiff, represented by the Law Offices of
Lawrence D. Rohlfing, Brian Shapiro, Esq., of counsel,
commenced this action seeking judicial review of the
Commissioner's denial of benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405 (g) and 1383 (c)(3).
parties consented to the jurisdiction of a United States
Magistrate Judge. (Docket No. 11, 12, 20). On November 8,
2016, this case was referred to the undersigned pursuant to
General Order 05-07. (Docket No. 18).
applied for benefits on February 14, 2013, alleging
disability beginning January 21, 2013, due to various
physical impairments. (T at 154-55, 167). The applications
were denied initially and on reconsideration. Claimant
requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). On December 16, 2014, a hearing was held
before ALJ Dante M. Alegre. (T at 34). Claimant appeared with
his attorney and testified. (T at 39-55). The ALJ also
received testimony from David Rinehart, a vocational expert
(T at 56-59).
April 8, 2015, the ALJ issued a written decision denying the
applications for benefits. (T at 16-33). Claimant passed away
on June 13, 2015. (T at 759). Plaintiff was substituted on
Claimant's behalf on August 15, 2015. (T at 142). The
ALJ's decision became the Commissioner's final
decision on February 24, 2016, when the Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff's request for review. (T at 1-7).
23, 2016, Plaintiff, acting by and through her counsel, filed
this action seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's
decision. (Docket No. 1). The Commissioner interposed an
Answer on September 7, 2016. (Docket No. 14). The parties
filed a Joint Stipulation on January 19, 2017. (Docket No.
reviewing the pleadings, Joint Stipulation, and
administrative record, this Court finds that the
Commissioner's decision should be reversed and this case
remanded for further proceedings.
Sequential Evaluation Process
Social Security Act (“the Act”) defines
disability as the “inability 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
twelve months.” 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A),
1382c(a)(3)(A). The Act also provides that a claimant shall
be determined to be under a disability only if any
impairments are of such severity that he or she is not only
unable to do previous work but cannot, considering his or her
age, education and work experiences, engage in any other
substantial work which exists in the national economy. 42
U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(B). Thus, the
definition of disability consists of both medical and
vocational components. Edlund v. Massanari, 253 F.3d
1152, 1156 (9th Cir. 2001).
Commissioner has established a five-step sequential
evaluation process for determining whether a person is
disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. Step one
determines if the person is engaged in substantial gainful
activities. If so, benefits are denied. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404. 1520(a)(4)(i), 416.920(a)(4)(i). If not,
the decision maker proceeds to step two, which determines
whether the claimant has a medically severe impairment or
combination of impairments. 20 C.F.R. §§
claimant does not have a severe impairment or combination of
impairments, the disability claim is denied. If the
impairment is severe, the evaluation proceeds to the third
step, which compares the claimant's impairment(s) with a
number of listed impairments acknowledged by the Commissioner
to be so severe as to preclude substantial gainful activity.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii),
416.920(a)(4)(iii); 20 C.F.R. § 404 Subpt. P App. 1. If
the impairment meets or equals one of the listed impairments,
the claimant is conclusively presumed to be disabled. If the
impairment is not one conclusively presumed to be disabling,
the evaluation proceeds to the fourth step, which determines
whether the impairment prevents the claimant from performing
work which was performed in the past. If the claimant is able
to perform previous work, he or she is deemed not disabled.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 416.920(a)(4)(iv).
At this step, the claimant's residual functional capacity
(RFC) is considered. If the claimant cannot perform past
relevant work, the fifth and final step in the process
determines whether he or she is able to perform other work in
the national economy in view of his or her residual
functional capacity, age, education, and past work
experience. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v),
416.920(a)(4)(v); Bowen v. Yuckert, 482
U.S. 137 (1987).
initial burden of proof rests upon the claimant to establish
a prima facie case of entitlement to disability
benefits. Rhinehart v. Finch, 438 F.2d 920, 921
(9thCir. 1971); Meanel v. Apfel, 172 F.3d
1111, 1113 (9th Cir. 1999). The initial burden is
met once the claimant establishes that a mental or physical
impairment prevents the performance of previous work. The
burden then shifts, at step five, to the Commissioner to show
that (1) plaintiff can perform other substantial gainful
activity and (2) a ...