United States District Court, C.D. California
DECISION AND ORDER
E. BIANCHINI UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
April of 2012, Plaintiff Denise Christine Little applied for
Disability Insurance benefits and Supplemental Security
Income (“SSI”) benefits under the Social Security
Act. The Commissioner of Social Security denied the
by and through her attorneys, Law Offices of Lawrence D.
Rohlfing, Brian C. 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, 17). On November 8,
2016, this case was referred to the undersigned pursuant to
General Order 05-07. (Docket No. 16).
applied for Disability Insurance benefits and SSI benefits on
April 9 and 23, 2012, respectively, alleging disability
beginning September 3, 2010. (T at 207-16, 230). The
applications were denied initially and on reconsideration.
Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law
March 2, 2014, a hearing was held before ALJ James D.
Goodman. (T at 39). Plaintiff appeared with her attorney and
testified. (T at 51-83).
25, 2014, the issued a written decision denying the
applications for benefits. (T at 19-38). The ALJ's
decision became the Commissioner's final decision on May
13, 2016, when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's
request for review. (T at 1-7).
12, 2016, Plaintiff, acting by and through her counsel, filed
this action seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's
denial of benefits. (Docket No. 1). The Commissioner
interposed an Answer on October 25, 2016. (Docket No. 14).
Plaintiff filed a supporting Brief on November 16, 2016.
(Docket No. 18). The Commissioner filed a Brief in opposition
on December 7, 2016. (Docket No. 19).
reviewing the pleadings, briefs, and administrative record,
this Court finds that the Commissioner's decision must be
reversed and this case remanded for further administrative
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 ...