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Wright v. Astrue

August 31, 2009

LISA WRIGHT, 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

Lisa Wright filed this action on May 22, 2008. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before Magistrate Judge Rosenberg on June 18 and July 26, 2008. (Dkt. Nos. 8, 9.) On April 2, 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 Court affirms the decision of the Commissioner.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On March 22, 2005, Wright filed an application for disability insurance benefits, alleging a disability onset date of April 7, 2004. A.R. 12. The application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Id. An Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") conducted a hearing on February 4, 2008, at which Wright, two medical experts and a vocational expert testified. A.R. 12, 590-616. On February 29, 2008, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. A.R. 9-23. On April 21, 2008, the Appeals Council denied Wright's request for review. A.R. 5-7. 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

Wright meets the insured status requirements through June 30, 2010.

A.R. 14. Wright "has the following severe combination of impairments: status post right carpal tunnel release and ganglion cyst excision [ ], right knee synovitis with patellofemoral malalignment [ ], disc protrusions at multiple levels of the lumbosacral spine, with evidence of nerve root involvement [ ]." A.R. 14-15 (citations to record omitted).

The ALJ found that Wright has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to lift and carry 25 pounds occasionally, 10 pounds frequently, standing and walking for 4 hours in an 8-hour workday, sitting for 6 hours. She may engage in occasional postural activity, except she is precluded from climbing ropes, ladders and scaffolds, or working at unprotected heights. She is limited to occasional use of foot pedals with the right lower extremity, and may engage in fine and gross manipulation, as well as in reaching above shoulder level, frequently, but not continuously. She has no other significant limitations except that she should be permitted to use a cane to walk long distances. A.R. 16.

Wright cannot perform her past relevant work. A.R. 21. However, "there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform," such as jewelry preparer, optical lens ...


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