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Mancillas-Gutierrez v. Astrue

February 23, 2009

DIANA MANCILLAS-GUTIERREZ, 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 Diana Mancillas-Gutierrez ("Mancillas-Gutierrez") filed a Complaint on February 26, 2008. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties filed Consents to proceed before Magistrate Judge Rosenberg on July 8 and 14, 2008. (Dkt. Nos. 8, 10.) The parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS") on November 3, 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 November 3, 2005, Mancillas-Gutierrez filed an application for disability insurance benefits. AR 11. The application was denied initially. AR 20. MancillasGutierrez requested a hearing. AR 26. On May 5, 2006, Mancillas-Gutierrez filed an application for supplemental security income, which was escalated to the hearing level. AR 11. The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") conducted a hearing on January 8, 2007. AR 215-253. On July 30, 2007, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 8-19. Mancillas-Gutierrez filed a Request for Review of the ALJ decision. AR 211-214. On January 15, 2008, the Appeals Council denied the request for review. AR 4-7. This lawsuit followed.

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 Mancillas-Gutierrez has a severe combination of impairments: "minimal spondylosis of the thoracic spine at T9-T12; spondylosis of the lumbar spine with advanced disc degeneration and L5-S1; and obesity." AR 15. Mancillas-Gutierrez has the residual functional capacity "to lift twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently. She can stand up to two hours and walk up to two hours in combination, cumulatively, in an eight-hour workday, and she can sit, for up to six hours cumulatively in an eight-hour workday. From time to time, or at least occasionally, she may do climbing, ...


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