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Uranna G. v. Saul

United States District Court, S.D. California

October 21, 2019

URANNA G., Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, [1]Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER REGARDING CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF NOS. 17, 21)

          ROBERT N. BLOCK UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         On September 12, 2018, plaintiff filed a Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking judicial review of a decision by the Commissioner of Social Security denying her application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits. Now pending before the Court and ready for decision are the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment.[2]For the reasons set forth herein, plaintiffs motion for summary judgment is GRANTED and the Commissioner's cross-motion for summary judgment is DENIED.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On October 8, 2015, plaintiff filed an application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits, alleging disability commencing January 1, 2015. (Certified Administrative Record ["AR"]) 500-06.) Plaintiff claimed that she was unable to work due to urinary cancer, high blood pressure, and anxiety. (AR 532.) Her application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. (AR 424-27, 429-33.)

         On June 30, 2016, plaintiff requested a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ'). (AR 434-35.) The hearing was held on October 17, 2016, with plaintiff electing to proceed without counsel. Testimony was taken from her and a vocational expert ("VE"). (See AR 345-82.)[3] The ALJ issued a decision on December 27, 2016, finding that plaintiff was not disabled for purposes of her benefits application. (AR 406-14.) Thereafter, plaintiff requested a review of the decision by the Appeals Council. (AR 464.) On February 27, 2017, the Appeals Council granted review, vacated the ALJ's decision, and remanded for further proceedings. (AR 419-23.)

         Pursuant to the order of remand, a supplemental hearing was held by the same ALJ on August 8, 2017. Plaintiff again elected to proceed without counsel. Testimony was taken from her and a VE. (See AR 37-93.) The ALJ issued a decision on October 25, 2017, again finding that plaintiff was not disabled for purposes of her benefits application. (AR 21-31.) Thereafter, plaintiff (now represented by counsel) requested a review of the decision by the Appeals Council. (AR 498-99.) The ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner on July 25, 2018, when the Appeals Council denied plaintiffs request for review. (AR 1-6.) This timely civil action followed.

         SUMMARY OF THE ALJ'S FINDINGS

         In rendering his decision, the ALJ followed the Commissioner's five-step sequential evaluation process. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. At step one, the ALJ found that plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 11, 2014, the amended alleged onset date. (AR23.)

         At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff had the following severe impairments: "residual effects from treatment of a malignant neoplasm of the ovary and uterine adnexa." (AR24.)[4]

         At step three, the ALJ found that plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the impairments listed in the Commissioner's Listing of Impairments. (AR 26.)

         Next, the ALJ determined that plaintiff had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform "the full range of skilled, sedentary work" as defined in the Commissioner's regulations, "but such work must have been safe, in that it could not have required more than occasional stooping, bending, twisting or squatting; working on the floor (e.g., no kneeling, crawling or crouching); ascending or descending full flights of stairs (but a few steps up or down not precluded); and working around dangerous unprotected heights, machinery, or chemicals." (AR 26.)

         For purposes of his step four determination, the ALJ adduced and accepted the VE's testimony that a hypothetical person with plaintiffs vocational profile and RFC would be able to perform the requirements of plaintiffs past relevant work as a bookkeeper, as customarily performed in the national economy (but in reduced numbers). (AR 30.)

         Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff was not disabled. (AR 31.)

         PLAINTIFF'S ...


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