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Powell v. Saul

United States District Court, C.D. California

July 26, 2019

LAWANDRIA RENAY POWELL, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF REMAND

          HONORABLE JACQUELINE CHOOLJIAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. SUMMARY

         On October 17, 2018, plaintiff Lawandria Renay Powell filed a Complaint seeking review of the Commissioner of Social Security's denial of plaintiff's applications 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”) (collectively “Motions”). The Court has taken the Motions under submission without oral argument. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 78; L.R. 7-15; October 19, 2018, 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 July 24, 2015, plaintiff filed applications for Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance Benefits, alleging disability beginning on March 6, 2015, due to ischemic stroke, hypertension, speech disturbance, adjustment disorder, depression, and mixed anxiety. (Administrative Record (“AR”) 22, 133, 140, 181). The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) examined the medical record and heard testimony from plaintiff and a vocational expert. (AR 38-62).

         On December 20, 2017, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled through the date of the decision. (AR 22-33). Specifically, the ALJ found: (1) plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: status post cerebrovascular accident, depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, and adjustment disorder (AR 25); (2) plaintiff's impairments, considered individually or in combination, did not meet or medically equal a listed impairment (AR 25); (3) plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity to perform medium work (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(c), 416.967(c)), but was “limited to simple, routine, and repetitive tasks, with no more than reasoning level 2, and no public contact[, ]” and had additional postural limitations[1] (AR 27); (4) plaintiff was capable of performing past relevant work as a hand packager (DOT No. 920.587-018) (AR 31-32); and (5) plaintiff's statements regarding the intensity, persistence, and /// limiting effects of subjective symptoms were not entirely consistent with the medical evidence and other evidence in the record (AR 28).

         On August 28, 2018, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's application for review. (AR 1).

         III. APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS

         A. Administrative Evaluation of Disability Claims

         To qualify for disability benefits, a claimant must show that she 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); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1505(a), 416.905. To be considered disabled, a claimant must have an impairment of such severity that she is incapable of performing work the claimant previously performed (“past relevant work”) as well as any other “work which exists in the national economy.” Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th Cir. 1999) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)).

         To assess whether a claimant is disabled, an ALJ is required to use the five-step sequential evaluation process set forth in Social Security regulations. See Stout v. Commissioner, Social Security Administration, 454 F.3d 1050, 1052 (9th Cir. 2006) (describing five-step sequential evaluation process) (citing 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920). The claimant has the burden of proof at steps one through four - i.e., determination of whether the claimant was engaging in substantial gainful activity (step 1), has a sufficiently severe impairment (step 2), has an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the conditions listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (“Listings”) (step 3), and retains the residual functional capacity to perform past relevant work (step 4). Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005) (citation omitted). The Commissioner has the burden of proof at step five - i.e., establishing that the claimant could perform other work in the national economy. Id.

         B. Federal Court Review of Social Security ...


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