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Perkins v. Berryhill

United States District Court, C.D. California

April 17, 2017

STEPHANIE M. PERKINS, on behalf of Alfred Earl Perkins deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, [1]Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF REMAND

          JACQUELINE CHOOLJIAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. SUMMARY

         On August 15, 2016, Stephanie M. Perkins (“plaintiff”) filed a Complaint on behalf of her late husband, Alfred Earl Perkins (“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.

         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 16, 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 January 24, 2013, claimant filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits alleging disability beginning on July 28, 2010 (“alleged onset date”), due to severe headaches, uncontrollable shaking, high blood pressure, stress, and problems with memory and concentration. (Administrative Record (“AR”) 10, 166, 178). The claimant passed away on October 16, 2014. (AR 10, 175). 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 January 27, 2015. (AR 26-49).

         On March 2, 2015, the ALJ determined that the claimant was not disabled through the date of his death. (AR 10-20). Specifically, the ALJ found that prior to the claimant's death: (1) the claimant had engaged in substantial gainful activity subsequent to the alleged onset date (AR 12-13); (2) the claimant suffered from the following severe impairments: diabetes mellitus, seizure disorder, history of kidney transplantation, obstructive airway disease, lumbago, and depressive disorder not otherwise specified (AR 13); (2) the claimant's impairments, considered singly or in combination, did not meet or medically equal a listed impairment (AR 13-14); (3) the claimant retained the residual functional capacity to perform light work[2] (20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b)) with additional non- exertional limitations[3] (AR 14); (4) the claimant was unable to perform any past relevant work (AR 18-19); (5) there were jobs in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant could have performed, specifically office helper, mail clerk, and information clerk (AR 19); and (6) the claimant's statements regarding the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of subjective symptoms were not entirely credible (AR 15).

         On June 30, 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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