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Meza v. Astrue

February 19, 2009

VICTOR ACOSTA MEZA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Alicia G. Rosenberg United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Victor Acosta Meza ("Meza") filed a Complaint on February 4, 2008. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties filed Consents to proceed before Magistrate Judge Rosenberg on February 19 and February 22, 2008. (Dkt. Nos. 8-9.) The parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS") on October 8, 2008, that addresses the disputed issues in the case. The Commissioner filed the certified administrative record. The Court has taken the Joint Stipulation under submission without oral argument.

Having reviewed the entire file, the Court concludes that the decision of the Commissioner is affirmed.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On May 27, 2005, Meza filed an application for Supplemental Security Income benefits. AR 18. On June 8, 2005, he also filed an application for Disability Insurance benefits, alleging a disability onset date of January 30, 1999.*fn1 AR 65-67. The Commissioner denied both applications. AR 57-62, 189. Meza requested a hearing. AR 63. The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") conducted a hearing on May 2, 2007. AR 197-216. On May 23, 2007, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 12-25. Meza filed a Request for Review of the ALJ decision. AR 10. On October 22, 2007, the Appeals Council denied the request. AR 4-7.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court has authority to review the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. The decision will be disturbed only if it is not supported by substantial evidence or it is based upon the application of improper legal standards. Moncada v. Chater, 60 F.3d 521, 523 (9th Cir. 1995); Drouin v. Sullivan, 966 F.2d 1255, 1257 (9th Cir. 1992).

In this context, "substantial evidence" means "more than a mere scintilla but less than a preponderance -- it is such relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support the conclusion." Moncada, 60 F.3d at 523. When determining whether substantial evidence exists to support the Commissioner's decision, the Court examines the administrative record as a whole, considering adverse as well as supporting evidence. Drouin, 966 F.2d at 1257. Where the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the Court must defer to the decision of the Commissioner. Moncada, 60 F.3d at 523.

III. EVALUATION OF DISABILITY

A. Disability

A person qualifies as disabled, and thereby eligible for such benefits, "only if his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy." Barnhart v. Thomas, 540 U.S. 20, 21-22, 124 S.Ct. 376, 157 L.Ed. 2d 333 (2003).

B. ALJ's Findings

The ALJ found that Meza has severe impairments consisting of "type II diabetes mellitus and a history of plantar abscess on the left foot with tenosynovitis." AR 20. Meza has the residual functional capacity "to perform light work, which does not require fine detailed visual acuity." AR 21. Although Meza was unable to perform past relevant work, the ALJ found that "there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform." AR 23. Based on the ...


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