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Simmons v. Astrue

August 18, 2009

GREGORY L. SIMMONS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Frederick F. Mumm United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

Plaintiff brings this action seeking to overturn the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying his application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits. On March 21, 2008 and April 8, 2008, plaintiff and defendant, respectively, consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Pursuant to the case management order entered on March 3, 2008 and the Court's August 6, 2008 order granting an extension of time, on December 3, 2008, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation detailing each party's arguments and authorities. The Court has reviewed the administrative record (the "AR"), filed by defendant on September 29, 2008, and the Joint Stipulation (the "JS"). For the reasons stated below, the decision of the Commissioner is reversed and remanded for further proceedings.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On April 29, 2005, plaintiff applied for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits. (AR 59-63.) Plaintiff's claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration. (AR 44-48, 52-56.) Plaintiff filed a request for a hearing before an administrative law judge (the "ALJ"). (AR 43.) The record indicates that plaintiff filed an application for Supplemental Security Income benefits on February 10, 2006; the claim was escalated to the hearing level. (See AR 12.) ALJ Lowell Fortune held a hearing on February 28, 2007. (AR 194-226.)

On March 13, 2007, the ALJ issued a decision awarding benefits for the closed period of November 11, 2004 through May 23, 2006.*fn1 (AR 12-20.) The ALJ found that plaintiff's disability ended on May 24, 2006. (AR 20.) On May 16, 2007, plaintiff sought review of the decision before the Social Security Administration Appeals Council. (AR 6-7.) The Council denied plaintiff's request for review on January 24, 2008. (AR 3-5.)

Plaintiff filed his complaint herein on February 28, 2008.

CONTENTIONS

Plaintiff raises two issues in this action:

1. Whether the ALJ properly considered plaintiff's subjective complaints; and

2. Whether the ALJ properly considered the treating physician's opinion.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the Commissioner's decision to determine whether the Commissioner'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, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 28 L.Ed. 2d 842 (1971); Desrosiers v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 846 F.2d 573, 575-76 (9th Cir. 1988). 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. Green v. Heckler, 803 F.2d 528, 529-30 (9th Cir. 1986). Where evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the Commissioner's decision must be upheld. Gallant v. Heckler, 753 F.2d 1450, 1452 (9th Cir. 1984). However, even if substantial evidence exists in the record to support the Commissioner's decision, the decision must be reversed if the proper legal standard was not applied. Howard ex rel. Wolff v. Barnhart, 341 F.3d 1006, 1014-15 (9th Cir. 2003).

DISCUSSION

A. Plaintiff's Subjective ...


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