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Carrasquillo v. Astrue

June 12, 2009

CHARLES CARRASQUILLO 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 Charles Carrasquillo ("Carrasquillo") filed a Complaint on April 3, 2008. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties filed Consents to proceed before Magistrate Judge Rosenberg on April 14 and August 4, 2008. The parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS") on February 2, 2009, that addresses 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 Court remands this matter to the Commissioner at Step Five.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On January 17, 2006, Carrasquillo filed an application for Disability Insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income benefits, alleging a disability onset date of November 30, 1998. A.R. 62-66. The Commissioner denied the applications. A.R. 39-40. The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") conducted a hearing on October 23, 2007.

A.R. 19-38. On November 14, 2007, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. A.R. 7-15. The ALJ concluded that Carrasquillo "has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from November 30, 1998 through the date of this decision [ ]." A.R. 15 (internal citation omitted).

Carrasquillo filed a request for review of the ALJ's decision. A.R. 6. The Appeals Council denied the request for review. A.R. 2-4. 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) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

B. The ALJ's Findings

Following the five step sequential evaluation process for determining disability, Lounsburry v. Barnhart, 468 F.3d 1111, 1114 (9th Cir. 2006), the ALJ found that Carrasquillo "has the following severe impairments: hypertension and diabetes." A.R. 12. The ALJ also found that Carrasquillo met the insured status requirements through September 30, 2000 and, for Title II purposes, had to prove his disability existed on or before that date. Id. The ALJ found that Carrasquillo had the residual functional capacity to perform "a limited range of medium work," which is ...


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