United States District Court, C.D. California
JOANNE POMMERVILLE, on behalf of Debra Ragland deceased, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF REMAND
HONORABLE JACQUELINE CHOOLJIAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
9, 2016, JoAnne Pommerville (“plaintiff”) filed a
Complaint on behalf of her late daughter, Debra Ragland
(“claimant”), seeking review of the Commissioner
of Social Security's denial of claimant's application
for benefits. The parties have consented to proceed before
the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge.
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; June
30, 2016 Case Management Order ¶ 5.
on the record as a whole and the applicable law, the decision
of the Commissioner is REVERSED AND REMANDED for further
proceedings consistent with this Memorandum Opinion and Order
BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION
April 2, 2012, the claimant filed applications for
Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance
Benefits alleging disability beginning on March 8, 2008, due
to neck problems after surgery and a sciatic nerve problem.
(Administrative Record (“AR”) 14, 156, 158, 183).
The claimant passed away on November 27, 2013. (AR 14, 543).
The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) examined the
medical record and heard testimony from plaintiff (who was
represented by counsel on behalf of the claimant) and a
vocational expert on September 10, 2014. (AR 25-42).
September 26, 2014, the ALJ determined that the claimant was
not disabled through the date of her death. (AR 14-20).
Specifically, the ALJ found that prior to the claimant's
death: (1) the claimant suffered from the following severe
impairments: chronic pain syndrome, degenerative disc disease
of the lumbar and cervical spines, and carpal tunnel syndrome
(AR 16-17); (2) the claimant's impairments, considered
singly or in combination, did not meet or medically equal a
listed impairment (AR 17); (3) the claimant retained the
residual functional capacity to perform light work (20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1567(b), 416.967(b)) with additional
limitations (AR 18); (4) the claimant was capable of
performing past relevant work as a floral retail manager (AR
19); and (5) the claimant's statements regarding the
intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of her
subjective symptoms were not entirely credible (AR 18).
April 13, 2016, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's
application for review. (AR 1).
APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS
Sequential Evaluation Process
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)).
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 not,
proceed to step two.
(2) Is the claimant's alleged impairment sufficiently
severe to limit the claimant's ability to work? If not,
the claimant is not disabled. If so, proceed to step three.
(3) Does the claimant's impairment, or combination of
impairments, meet or equal an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R.
Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1? If so, the claimant is