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Jimenez v. Astrue

August 19, 2009

VERONICA J. JIMENEZ, 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

Veronica J. Jimenez filed this action on October 31, 2008. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before Magistrate Judge Rosenberg on November 13 and 26, 2008. (Dkt. Nos. 7, 9.) On May 22, 2009, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("J.S.") that addressed the disputed issues. The Court has taken the matter under submission without oral argument.

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

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On January 16 and 17, 2007, Jimenez filed an application for disability insurance benefits and an application for Supplemental Security Income benefits, both alleging a disability onset date of April 14, 2006. A.R. 9. The applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration. A.R. 38-41. An Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") conducted a hearing on June 5, 2008, at which Jimenez and a vocational expert ("VE") testified. A.R. 16-37. On July 7, 2008, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. A.R. 6-15. Jimenez requested review. A.R. 4. On August 22, 2008, the Appeals Council denied Jimenez's request for review. A.R. 1-3. 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 is eligible for 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

Jimenez has a severe impairment of bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome. A.R. 11. She has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") "to perform light work . . . except no repetitive lifting over 10 pounds and . . . the opportunity to wear a brace on both hands. The claimant is precluded from pushing and pulling over 20 pounds, use of vibratory power tools and exposure to excessive concentrations of extreme cold. The claimant is limited to handling and fingering no more than occasionally with the right and no more than frequently with the left." A.R. 12. Jimenez cannot perform her past relevant work. A.R. 13 However, "there are jobs ...


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