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Jackson v. Astrue

December 12, 2008

DERA JACKSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,*FN1 DEFENDANT.



ORDER

This social security action was submitted to the court, without oral argument, for ruling on plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment. For the reasons explained below, plaintiff's motion is denied, defendant's motion is granted, and the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner) is affirmed.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Dera Jackson protectively filed an application for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act (Act) on June 10, 2004, alleging disability since February 9, 2004. (Transcript (Tr.) at 42-45.) The Commissioner denied the application initially and on reconsideration. (Tr. at 26-27.) Upon plaintiff's request for an administrative hearing, a hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) on October 11, 2005. (Tr. at 41, 190-208.) Plaintiff was represented by counsel and testified at the hearing. (Tr. at 193-203.)

In a decision dated April 26, 2006, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled. (Tr. at 9-21.) The ALJ entered the following findings in this regard:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2008.

2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity at any time relevant to this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(b) and 404.1571 et seq.).

3. The claimant has the following severe impairment: asthma/chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (20 CFR 404.1520(c)).

4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525 and 404.1526).

5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant's residual functional capacity to perform work at all exertional levels is unlimited with the exception of some environmental limitations related to her asthma condition. Specifically, due to asthma, the claimant should avoid even moderate exposure to fumes, odors, dusts, gases, poor ventilation, and the like. She has no other environmental limitations. Furthermore, there are no exertional, postural, manipulative, visual, or communicative limitations.

6. The claimant is capable of performing past relevant work as an assistant site supervisor in the childcare industry, and as a clerical worker. This work does not require the performance of work-related activities precluded by the claimant's residual functional capacity (20 CFR 404.1565).

7. The claimant has not been under a "disability," as defined in the Social Security Act, from February 9, 2004 through the date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(f)).

(Tr. at 14-21.) On July 18, 2006, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision. (Tr. at 4-6.) Plaintiff sought judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) by filing the complaint in this action on August 15, 2006.

LEGAL STANDARD

The Commissioner's decision that a claimant is not disabled will be upheld if the findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole and the proper legal standards were applied. Schneider v. Comm'r of the Soc. Sec. Admin., 223 F.3d 968, 973 (9th Cir. 2000); Morgan v. Comm'r of the Soc. Sec. Admin., 169 F.3d 595, 599 (9th Cir. 1999). The findings of the Commissioner as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, are conclusive. See Miller v. Heckler, 770 F.2d 845, 847 (9th Cir. 1985). Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Morgan, 169 F.3d at 599; Jones v. Heckler, 760 F.2d 993, 995 (9th Cir. 1985) (citing Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)).

A reviewing court must consider the record as a whole, weighing both the evidence that supports and the evidence that detracts from the ALJ's conclusion. See Jones, 760 F.2d at 995. The court may not affirm the ALJ's decision simply by isolating a specific quantum of supporting evidence. Id.; see also Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989). If substantial evidence supports the administrative findings, or if there is conflicting evidence supporting a finding of either disability or non-disability, the finding of the ALJ is conclusive, see Sprague v. Bowen, 812 F.2d 1226, 1229-30 (9th Cir. 1987), and may be set aside only if an improper legal standard was applied in weighing the evidence, see Burkhart v. Bowen, 856 F.2d 1335, 1338 (9th Cir. 1988).

In determining whether or not a claimant is disabled, the ALJ should apply the five-step sequential evaluation process established under Title 20 of the Code of Federal Regulations, §§ 404.1520 and 416.920. See Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, ...


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