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Williams v. Astrue

April 28, 2009

SHEILA WILLIAMS, 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 Sheila Williams ("Williams") filed a Complaint on April 8, 2008. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties filed Consents to proceed before Magistrate Judge Rosenberg on April 18 and 25, 2008. (Dkt. Nos. 9-10.) The parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS") on December 29, 2008, that addressed the disputed issues in the case. The Commissioner filed the certified administrative record ("A.R."). The Court has taken the Joint Stipulation under submission without oral argument.

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

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Williams filed applications for supplemental security income and disability insurance benefits with a protective filing date of May 5, 2005, and alleging a disability onset date of July 17, 2001. A.R. 10, 48-56. The applications were denied. A.R. 36-37. Williams requested a hearing. A.R. 44. An Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") conducted a hearing on June 8, 2006. A.R. 265-302. On April 27, 2007, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. A.R. 7-15. Williams filed a request for review. A.R. 6. On February 13, 2008, the Appeals Council denied the request for review. A.R. 3-5.

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 Williams "has a severe impairment of degenerative joint disease of the lumbar spine." A.R. 13. Williams "is able to perform the full range of work at the light exertional level," with "postural limitations of occasional climbing, balancing, and stooping, and frequent kneeling, crouching, and crawling." A.R. 14. "There are no appreciable non-exertional limitations." Id. ...


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