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Murphy v. Berryhill

United States District Court, C.D. California

April 4, 2017

FAWNDA M. ROBERTS MURPHY, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, [1]Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          JACQUELINE CHOOLJIAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. SUMMARY

         On November 18, 2016, Fawnda M. Roberts Murphy (“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; November 22, 2016 Case Management Order ¶ 5.

         Based on the record as a whole and the applicable law, the decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED. The findings of the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) are supported by substantial evidence and are free from material error.

         II. BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

         On April 27, 2011, plaintiff filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits alleging disability beginning on November 15, 2010, due to severe depression, extreme fatigue, and memory loss. (Administrative Record (“AR”) 98, 252, 284). The ALJ examined the medical record and heard testimony from plaintiff (who was not represented by counsel) and vocational and medical experts on January 24, 2013. (AR 27-47).

         On January 28, 2013, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled through May 31, 2011, the date last insured[2] (“Pre-Remand Decision”). (AR 98-107).

         On July 17, 2014, the Appeals Council granted review, vacated the Pre-Remand Decision, and remanded the matter for further administrative proceedings. (AR 112-14).

         On November 25, 2014, the ALJ again examined the medical record and also heard testimony from plaintiff (who was represented by counsel), and vocational and medical experts (“Post-Remand Hearing”). (AR 48-69).

         On December 4, 2014, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled through the date of the decision (“Post-Remand Decision”).[3] (AR 9-21). Specifically, the ALJ found: (1) plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: fatigue, depression, memory loss, back strain, and obesity (AR 12); (2) plaintiff's impairments, considered singly or in combination, did not meet or medically equal a listed impairment (AR 13-14); (3) plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity to perform light work (20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b)), with additional limitations[4] (AR 14); (4) plaintiff was capable of performing past relevant work as a dealer compliance representative (AR 19); (5) alternatively, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that plaintiff could perform, specifically office helper, mail clerk, and routing clerk (AR 19-20); and (6) plaintiff's statements regarding the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of subjective symptoms were not credible to the extent they were inconsistent with the ALJ's residual functional capacity assessment (AR 15).

         On September 28, 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 ...


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