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Guadalupe V. v. Saul

United States District Court, S.D. California

January 6, 2020

ROSEMARY GUADALUPE V., Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, [1] Defendant.

          ORDER: (1) GRANTING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; (2) GRANTING IN PART DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; AND (3) REMANDING THIS ACTION TO THE COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY [DOCS. 15, 18, 20.]

          HON. RUTH BERMUDEZ MONTENEGRO, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Rosemary Guadalupe V. ("Plaintiff) filed a Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c) seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Defendant" or "Commissioner") denying Plaintiffs application for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (the "Act"). (Doc. 1.) Before the Court are Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 15); Defendant's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment and Opposition to Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 18); and Plaintiffs Reply in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 20).

         The parties consented to Magistrate Judge jurisdiction. (See Gen. Or. 707; Doc. 5.)

         After a thorough review of the papers on file, the Administrative Record ("AR"), the facts, and applicable law, Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgement is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART, Defendant's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART, and the decision of the ALJ is REMANDED.

         II. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On October 7, 2014, Plaintiff filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income under Titles II and XVI of the Act, alleging disability beginning on December 18, 2011. (AR, at 149-161.[2]) After Plaintiffs claim was denied initially on March 26, 2015 (AR, at 94-97), and upon reconsideration on September 16, 2015 (AR, at 103-107), Plaintiff requested a hearing before an ALJ, which was held on November 21, 2017 (AR, at 37-53). Plaintiff appeared and was represented by counsel, and testimony was taken from Plaintiff and Victoria Rei, a vocational expert ("VE").

         On March 1, 2018, the ALJ issued a written decision in which he found Plaintiff was not disabled as defined in the Act. (AR, at 20-32.) On February 22, 2019, the Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's ruling, and the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c). (AR, at 1-6.)

         III. THE ALJ'S FINDINGS

         In his decision, the ALJ initially determined Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2016. (AR, at 25.) The ALJ then followed the five-step sequential evaluation process to determine whether Plaintiff is disabled. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a).

         At step one, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since December 18, 2011, the alleged onset of disability. (AR, at 25.)

         At step two, the ALJ found Plaintiff suffers from carpal tunnel syndrome, a severe impairment. (Id.)

         At step three, the ALJ found Plaintiff does not have an impairment of combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (AR, at 28.)

         Next, the ALJ determined Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform a wide range of light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b). (AR, at 28.) Specifically, Plaintiff is able to:

lift and carry up to 20 pounds occasionally and up to 10 pounds frequently ... stand, or walk 6 hours in an 8-hour workday . . . perform tasks where there is a frequent but not constant requirement for [stooping], crouching, kneeling, and climbing stairs . . . perform tasks where there is no requirement for crawling or climbing ropes, ladders, or scaffolds ... perform tasks where there is no requirement for forceful gripping or torqueing, but [Plaintiff] can do normal handling and fingering.

(Id.)

         At step four, the ALJ found Plaintiff was capable of performing past relevant work as an "Office Manager (sedentary, skilled with an SVP of 7), as found in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) at catalogue #169.167-034." (Id., at 32 (emphasis in original).)

         Accordingly, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff "has not been under a disability, as defined in the [Act], from December 18, 2011, through the ...


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