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Mathia v. Colvin

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

May 31, 2013

SARAH B. MATHIA, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN L. COLVIN, [1] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

JANICE M. STEWART, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff, Sarah Mathia ("Mathia"), seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner") denying her application for Children's Disability Benefits ("CDB") under Title II of the Social Security Act. This court has jurisdiction under 42 USC §§ 405(g) and 1383(c). All parties have consented to allow a Magistrate Judge to enter final orders and judgment in this case in accordance with FRCP 73 and 28 USC § 636(c). Because the Commissioner's decision is not supported by substantial evidence, the decision is REVERSED and REMANDED for the payment of benefits.

ADMINISTRATIVE HISTORY

Mathia filed an application for CDB on July 16, 2007, alleging disability due to a learning disability, infantile scoliosis, and chronic nerve pain. Tr. 102-03, 110.[2] She is entitled to payment of CDB if she is 18 years or older and has a disability that began before attaining age 22. 20 CFR § 404.350(a)(t). After her application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, Mathia requested a hearing. Tr. 12. After an administrative hearing on April 22, 2011 (Tr. 28-50), Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Richard A. Say found Mathia not to be disabled. Tr. 12-22. Mathia subsequently submitted new evidence to the Appeals Council and requested review of the ALJ's decision. Tr. 5-8. After considering the new evidence, the Appeals Council denied her request on June 26, 2012, making the ALJ's decision the final Agency decision. Tr. 1-2. Mathia now seeks judicial review of that decision.

BACKGROUND

Born in 1989, Mathia was age 18 on the alleged disability date of March 31, 2007, and age 22 at the time of the hearing. Tr. 51. Mathia has a high school diploma and attended some community college courses. Tr. 44, 115, 226. She has past work experience at a Subway sandwich shop and as a teacher's aide. Tr. 33, 272. Mathia alleges that she is unable to work due to her combined impairments.

DISABILITY ANALYSIS

A disability is the "inability 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[.]" 42 USC § 423(d)(1)(A). The ALJ engages in a five-step sequential inquiry to determine whether a claimant is disabled within the meaning of the Act. 20 CFR § 404.1520; Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098-99 (9th Cir 1999).

At step one, the ALJ determines if the claimant is performing substantial gainful activity. If so, the claimant is not disabled. 20 CFR § 404.1520(a)(4)(i) & (b).

At step two, the ALJ determines if the claimant has "a severe medically determinable physical or mental impairment" that meets the 12-month durational requirement. 20 CFR § 404.1520(a)(4)(ii) & (c). Absent a severe impairment, the claimant is not disabled. Id. At step three, the ALJ determines whether the severe impairment meets or equals an impairment "listed" in the regulations. 20 CFR § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii) & (d); 20 CFR Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1 (Listing of Impairments). If the impairment is determined to meet or equal a listed impairment, then the claimant is disabled.

If adjudication proceeds beyond step three, the ALJ must first evaluate medical and other relevant evidence in assessing the claimant's residual functional capacity ("RFC"). The claimant's RFC is an assessment of work-related activities the claimant may still perform on a regular and continuing basis, despite the limitations imposed by his or her impairments. 20 CFR § 404.1520(e); Social Security Ruling ("SSR") 96-8p, 1996 WL 374184 (July 2, 1996).

At step four, the ALJ uses the RFC to determine if the claimant can perform past relevant work. 20 CFR § 404.1520(a)(4)(iv) & (e). If the claimant cannot perform past relevant work, then at step five, the ALJ must determine if the claimant can perform other work in the national economy. Yuckert v. Bowen, 482 U.S. 137, 142 (1987); Tackett, 180 F.3d at 1099; 20 CFR § 404.1520(a)(4)(v) & (g).

The initial burden of establishing disability rests upon the claimant. Tackett, 180 F.3d at 1098. If the process reaches step five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that jobs exist in the national economy within the claimant's RFC. Id. If the Commissioner meets this ...


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