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Lopez v. Berryhill

United States District Court, C.D. California

March 27, 2017

DIANA MARIE LOPEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, [1]Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF REMAND

          Honorable Jacqueline Chooljian UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. SUMMARY

         On August 29, 2016, Diana Marie Lopez (“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; September 1, 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 9, 2012, plaintiff filed applications for Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance Benefits alleging disability beginning on March 1, 2010 (“alleged onset date”), due to depression. (Administrative Record (“AR”) 20, 185, 192, 238). The ALJ examined the medical record and heard testimony from plaintiff (who was represented by counsel) and a vocational expert on August 1, 2014. (AR 37-59).

         On September 22, 2014, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled through the date of the decision. (AR 20-31). Specifically, the ALJ found that plaintiff had engaged in substantial gainful activity during the period from January 2012 through December 2012. (AR 22). In addition, for the periods during which plaintiff did not engage in substantial gainful activity (i.e., from the alleged onset date through December 31, 2011, and from January 1, 2013 through the date of the decision), the ALJ found: (1) plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: bipolar disorder, psychotic disorder, dysthymic disorder, and mixed personality disorder with borderline and antisocial features (AR 23); (2) plaintiff's impairments, considered singly or in combination, did not meet or medically equal a listed impairment (AR 23-24); (3) plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels with additional nonexertional limitations[2] (AR 24); (4) plaintiff was unable to perform any past relevant work (AR 29); (5) there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that plaintiff could perform, specifically hospital cleaner, laundry worker, and hand packager (AR 29-30); and (6) plaintiff's statements regarding the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of subjective symptoms were not entirely credible (AR 25).

         On June 24, 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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