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Loera v. Astrue

February 24, 2009

ARMIDA LOERA, 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

Armida Loera filed this action on February 28, 2008. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before Magistrate Judge Rosenberg on March 26 and April 23, 2008. On November 13, 2008, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS") that addressed the disputed issues. The Court has taken the matter under submission without oral argument.

Having reviewed the entire file, the Court affirms the Commissioner's decision.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On September 1, 2005, Loera filed an application for Supplemental Security Income benefits. A.R. 18. The application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. A.R. 50-51. Loera requested a hearing. A.R. 52. An Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") conducted a hearing on April 16, 2007, at which Loera and a vocational expert testified. A.R. 308-342. On May 25, 2007, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. A.R. 15-26. Loera requested review and submitted some additional evidence to the Appeals Council. A.R. 13, 231-301. On December 5, 2007, after having considered new evidence, the Appeals Council denied Loera's request for review. A.R. 7-10.

This lawsuit followed.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. The decision will be disturbed only if it is not supported by substantial evidence, or if 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).

"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. In 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. When the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the Court must defer to the Commissioner's decision. Moncada, 60 F.3d at 523.

III. DISCUSSION

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. The ALJ's Findings

The ALJ found that Loera had the following severe impairments: lumbar spine degenerative joint disease, right shoulder sprain, and asthma. A.R. 25. Loera had the following residual functional capacity ("RFC"): "lifting and/or carrying 10 pounds frequently and 20 pounds occasionally; sitting for 6 hours total in an 8-hour workday with normal breaks; standing and/or walking for 6 hours total in an 8-hour workday with normal breaks; occasional balancing, kneeling, climbing, crawling, crouching and stooping; and, occasional use of the right upper extremity for fine manipulation." Id. She had no past relevant work. Id. She had the RFC "to perform a significant range of light ...


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