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Margaret Christine Arellano v. Michael J. Astrue

July 18, 2012

MARGARET CHRISTINE ARELLANO,
PETITIONER,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE,COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Mikel H. Williams United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Currently pending before the Court for its consideration is PetitionerMargaret Christine Arellano's ("Petitioner") Petition for Review (Dkt. 1) of the Respondent's denial of social security benefits, filed March 3, 2011. The Court has reviewed the Petition for Review and the Answer, the parties' memorandums, and the administrative record ("AR"). For the reasons that follow, the Court will affirm the decision of the Commissioner.

I.

Procedural and Factual History Petitioner filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income on October 26, 2006, alleging disability due to congestive heart failure, obesity, knees, and depression. Petitioner's application was denied initially and on reconsideration, and a request for a hearing was timely filed.*fn1

Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Ronald S. Robins held a hearing on December 5, 2008, taking testimony from Petitioner and vocational expert Mark J. Kelman. AR 24-49. ALJ Robins issued a decision finding Petitioner not disabled on August 3, 2009. AR 15-21.

Petitioner filed a timely appeal to the Appeals Council which denied her request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. AR 1-3. Petitioner appealed this final decision to this Court. The Court has jurisdiction to review the ALJ's decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

At the time of the hearing, Petitioner was 61 years old. She has an eleventh grade educationand her past relevant work includes timekeeper, desk clerk, and auditor.

II.

Sequential Process The Commissioner follows a five-step sequential evaluation for determining whether a claimant is disabled. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. The claimant has the burden of proving disability within the meaning of the Social Security Act. Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th Cir. 1999). More specifically, the claimant has the burden of proving disability in the first four steps of the sequential evaluation after which the burden moves to the Commissioner at the fifth step. Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005) (citing Swenson v. Sullivan, 876 F.3d 683, 687 (9th Cir. 1989)).

At step one, it must be determined whether the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity. The ALJ found Petitioner had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged onset date of November 13, 2006.

At step two, it must be determined whether claimant suffers from a severe impairment. The ALJ found that Petitioner's morbid obesity, bilateral knee osteoarthritis with pain, hypertension, and history of congestive heart failure are "severe" within the meaning of the Regulations.

Step three asks whether a claimant's impairments meet or equal a listed impairment. The ALJ found that Petitioner did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or equals the criteria for the listed impairments. If a claimant's impairments or combination of impairments do not meet or equal a listing, the Commissioner must assess the residual functional capacity ("RFC") and determine at step four whether the claimant has demonstrated an inability to perform past relevant work.

At step four, the ALJ found Petitioner was able to perform some but not all of her past relevant work. He found that she was able to perform her past relevant work as a timekeeper (sedentary, semi-skilled), desk clerk (light, semi-skilled), and auditor (sedentary, semi skilled) "except for limitation to standing/walking for 4-6 hours and sitting for 8 hours in an 8 hour day, inability to stand for a prolonged period, and limitation to occasional stooping, crouching, crawling, climbing, kneeling and balancing." AR 18.

If a claimant demonstrates an inability to perform past relevant work, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to demonstrate at step five that the claimant retains the capacity to make an adjustment to other work that exists in significant levels in the national economy, after considering the claimant's residual functional capacity, age, education and work experience. ...


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