Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Contreras v. Astrue

August 27, 2009

MARIA E. CONTRERAS, 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

Maria E. Contreras filed this action on May 30, 2008. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties filed Consents to proceed before Magistrate Judge Rosenberg on June 13 and August 4, 2008. (Dkt. Nos. 8,9.) The parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("J.S.") on February 7, 2009, that addressed the disputed issues in the case. The Court has taken the Joint Stipulation under submission without oral argument.

Having reviewed the entire file, the Court concludes that this matter is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On January 5, 2006, Contreras filed an application for disability insurance benefits, alleging a disability onset date of December 10, 1998. A.R. 18. The application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. A.R. 42-43. An Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") conducted a hearing on January 31, 2007, at which Contreras and a vocational expert ("VE") testified. A.R. 370-92. On April 19, 2007,*fn1 the AL issued an unfavorable decision. A.R. 15-28. On April 24, 2008, the Appeals Counsel denied Contreras' request for review. A.R. 5-8. 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

The ALJ found that Contreras was last insured through December 30, 2004, and had to prove her disability existed on or before that date to be entitled to disability insurance benefits.*fn2 A.R. 18, 20.

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 Contreras "had the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the cervical and lumbar spine; status post right carpal tunnel release, mild left carpal tunnel syndrome, and mild impingement syndrome of the left shoulder." A.R. 20.*fn3 Contreras had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to "lift/carry 20 pounds occasionally, 10 pounds frequently, and stand, walk or sit for 6 out of 8 hours a day with no climbing of ladders, ropes or scaffolds. She was able to occasionally climb ramps and stairs, and occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, balance and crawl. She was able to occasionally handle and finger bilaterally. She was precluded from reaching above shoulder level bilaterally. She was to avoid moderate exposure to vibration and to hazards including ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.