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Oseguera v. Astrue

March 5, 2009

OFELIA OSEGUERA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jennifer T. Lum United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER PROCEEDINGS

On July 22, 2008, Ofelia Oseguera ("plaintiff") filed a Complaint seeking review of the Social Security Administration's denial of her application for Disability Insurance Benefits. On July 30, 2008, plaintiff filed a Consent to Proceed Before United States Magistrate Judge Jennifer T. Lum. On August 8, 2008, Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security ("defendant"), filed a Consent to Proceed Before United States Magistrate Judge Jennifer T. Lum. Thereafter, on December 1, 2008, defendant filed an Answer to the Complaint. On February 25, 2009, the parties filed their Joint Stipulation.

The matter is now ready for decision.

BACKGROUND

On October 8, 2004, plaintiff filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits alleging an onset date of December 12, 2003, due to back, left foot and left knee injuries and a thyroid problem. (See Administrative Record ["AR"] at 51, 59, 79). The Commissioner initially denied plaintiff's application on February 18, 2005. (AR at 59; see AR at 51). Thereafter, plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). (AR at 57).

On February 1, 2007, the ALJ conducted a hearing in Downey, California.*fn1 (See AR at 298-314). Plaintiff appeared at the hearing with counsel and testified with the aid of a Spanish language interpreter. (AR at 291, 293-311). Susan Green, a vocational expert, also testified at the hearing. (AR at 311-13). On February 22, 2007, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits to plaintiff. (AR at 20-25). In his decision, the ALJ determined that plaintiff had the following severe impairments: degenerative changes of the left knee, status post arthroscopic surgery, a lumbar strain syndrome, and an L4-5 disc protrusion without encroachment in the neural foramina. (AR at 22). The ALJ determined that plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meet or equal the criteria contained in the Commissioner's Listing of Impairments, 20 C.F.R. Section 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (AR at 23). The ALJ determined that plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity to do the following: lift 25 pounds frequently and 50 pounds occasionally; stand and/or walk six hours in an eight-hour workday; sit six hours in an eight-hour workday; perform no more than occasional climbing and balancing; and was precluded from operating foot controls with her left lower extremity. (AR at 23). The ALJ found that plaintiff retained the ability to perform her past relevant work as a machine operator. (AR at 25). Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff was not disabled from December 12, 2003, the alleged disability onset date, through the date of his decision. (AR at 20, 25). The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's timely request for review of the ALJ's decision. (See AR at 4, 12-13).

Thereafter, plaintiff appealed to the United States District Court.

PLAINTIFF'S CONTENTIONS

Plaintiff makes the following claims:

1. The ALJ's residual functional capacity assessment is not supported by substantial evidence.

2. The ALJ failed to properly evaluate plaintiff's subjective symptoms and credibility.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. Section 405(g), this Court reviews the ALJ's decision to determine whether the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence and whether the proper legal standards were applied. DeLorme v. Sullivan, 924 F.2d 841, 846 (9th Cir. 1991). Substantial evidence means "more than a mere scintilla" but less than a preponderance. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Saelee v. Chater, 94 F.3d 520, 521-22 (9th Cir. 1996).

Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401. This Court must review the record as a whole and consider adverse as well as supporting evidence. Morgan v. Comm'r, 169 F.3d 595, 599 (9th Cir. 1999). Where evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, ...


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