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Perkins v. Astrue

July 8, 2009

CHRISTOPHER M. PERKINS, 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

Christopher Perkins filed this action on May 23, 2008. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before Magistrate Judge Rosenberg on June 18 and September 25, 2008. On March 5, 2009, 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 August 17, 2005, Perkins filed an application for Supplemental Security Income benefits alleging a disability onset date of December 28, 2001. A.R. 10. The application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Id. An Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") conducted a hearing on October 16, 2007, at which Perkins, his mother, a medical expert ("ME"), and a vocational expert ("VE") testified. A.R. 266-279. On January 16, 2008, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. A.R. 7-17. Perkins requested review. A.R. 6. On April 22, 2008, the Appeals Council denied Perkins' request for review. A.R. 3-5.

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

Perkins has the following severe impairments: "depressive disorder, NOS, and a history of polysubstance abuse, in early remission." A.R. 12. Perkins has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") "to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following non-exertional limitations: limitation to simple repetitive tasks with no hyper vigilance and occasional public contact." A.R. 13. Perkins is unable to perform his past relevant work as a barber. A.R. 15. Considering Perkins' age (27 at the time of the application), his education (at least a high school diploma), his work experience, and the RFC, jobs ...


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