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Mendoza v. Colvin

United States District Court, C.D. California

March 8, 2017

HECTOR MENDOZA, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          SUZANNE H. SEGAL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Hector Mendoza (“Plaintiff”) seeks review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the “Commissioner” or the “Agency”) denying his application for disability benefits. The undersigned United States Magistrate Judge has jurisdiction, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). For the reasons stated below, the decision of the Commissioner is REVERSED and REMANDED for further administrative proceedings consistent with this decision.

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff filed an application for disability benefits on March 14, 2011, alleging a disability starting on January 8, 2009. (Administrative Record (“AR”) 16). Plaintiff had previously been denied social security benefits in 2007. (Id.).

         On March 7, 2014, Plaintiff had a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, Cynthia Minter (“ALJ”). (AR 34). Vocational expert (“VE”) Randi Headrick also testified. (AR 34, 49-54). On October 31, 2014 the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. (AR 27). Plaintiff filed a complaint for review of the Commissioner's unfavorable decision on June 4, 2016. (Dkt. No. 1).

         III. 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 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.

(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 described in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1? If so, the claimant is found disabled. If not, proceed to step four.
(4) Is the claimant capable of performing his past work? 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 claimant is ...

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