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Trautloff v. Commissioner Social Security Administration

United States District Court, C.D. California

March 22, 2017

TERRY LEE TRAUTLOFF, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF REMAND

          HONORABLE JACQUELINE CHOOLJIAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         I. SUMMARY

         On August 24, 2016, Terry Lee Trautloff (“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; August 26, 2016 Case Management Order ¶ 5.

         Based 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 of Remand.

         II. BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

         On March 25, 2013, plaintiff filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits alleging disability beginning on November 1, 2012, due to back spasms, back injury, pain, degenerative disc disease, loss of range of motion, arthritis, hypertension, and chronic right knee pain. (Administrative Record (“AR”) 51, 246, 266-67). The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) examined the medical record and heard testimony from plaintiff (who was represented by counsel), plaintiff's spouse, and a vocational expert on December 15, 2014. (AR 64-92).

         On January 16, 2015, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled through the date of the decision. (AR 51-59). Specifically, the ALJ found: (1) plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, L5 par fracture, myofascial low back pain, right knee pain, left knee degenerative joint disease and medial meniscus tear, and left shoulder pain (status post SLAP repair of left shoulder) (AR 53); (2) plaintiff's impairments, considered singly or in combination, did not meet or medically equal a listed impairment (AR 54); (3) plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity to perform medium work (20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(c)) with additional limitations[1](AR 54); (4) plaintiff was capable of performing past relevant work as a ski binding fitter and repairer (AR 58); and (5) plaintiff's statements regarding the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of subjective symptoms were not entirely credible (AR 55).

         On August 2, 2016, 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 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 ...

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