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Suarez v. Astrue

September 15, 2009

MARIA LOURDES SUAREZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Oswald Parada United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION; ORDER

The Court*fn1 now rules as follows with respect to the disputed issue listed in the Joint Stipulation ("JS").*fn2

I. DISPUTED ISSUE

As reflected in the Joint Stipulation, the disputed issue which Plaintiff is raising as the ground for reversal and/or remand is whether Plaintiff retains the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform her past relevant occupation of hospital housekeeper. (JS at 3.)

II. 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. Sec'y 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 (citation omitted). The 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 of more than one rational interpretation, the Commissioner's decision must be upheld. Gallant v. Heckler, 753 F.2d 1450, 1452 (9th Cir. 1984).

III. DISCUSSION

The ALJ Properly Determined that Plaintiff Could Perform Her Past Relevant Work

Plaintiff contends that the ALJ improperly determined that she can perform her past relevant work as a hospital housekeeper. (JS at 4-10, 14.) Specifically, Plaintiff argues that she cannot perform her past relevant work because she does not have the requisite language skills due to her illiteracy and inability to communicate in English, and she no longer retains the physical ability to perform the job. (Id. at 5.) The Court disagrees.*fn3

Here, the ALJ relied on the opinions of Plaintiff's treating physicians and consultative examiners, combined with the medical record as a whole, to determine that Plaintiff retained the RFC to perform a range of medium work with no significant limitations. (AR at 23.) At the hearing, Plaintiff testified that she was previously employed as a housekeeper at Arcadia Methodist Hospital, and she quit her previous employment because she broke her leg. (Id. at 471.) Given the above limitations, the ALJ requested that the VE identify Plaintiff's vocational profile, including her past relevant work. (Id. at 475.) The VE identified Plaintiff's vocational profile and past relevant work as follows:

Present age is age 54 which classifies her as a person closely approaching advanced age. She has a 6th grade education classfying [sic] her as a person with a marginal education. And as she testified here today she spoke very little English. She worked as a hospital, hospital cleaner, a hospital housekeeper, DOT code 323.687-010. That's medium and unskilled work with an SVP of two and according to 9E3 it appears she also performed it a medium level. (Id.) The VE then opined that if Plaintiff was limited to a range of medium work, she could perform her past relevant work of hospital housekeeper. (Id. at 476.) After reviewing the medical evidence and properly discounting Plaintiff's credibility, the ALJ agreed with the VE's conclusion and determined that Plaintiff could perform her past relevant work as hospital housekeeper.*fn4 (Id. at 23.)

A. Physical Demands

Due to her alleged inability to stand and walk for seven hours, Plaintiff argues that she is unable to perform the job of hospital housekeeper. (JS at 5-6.) In the ALJ's RFC finding, the ALJ determined, inter alia, that Plaintiff can perform a range of medium work while sitting, standing, and walking for six hours in an eight-hour workday. (AR at 23.) While Plaintiff indicated that her past relevant job required her to stand and walk for seven hours, the VE determined that Plaintiff, contrary to her allegations, performed her past relevant work of hospital housekeeper at a medium level. (Id. at 123, 475-76.) Notably, the ALJ discounted Plaintiff's allegations of disabling pain and symptoms based on the adverse credibility finding. (Id. at 26-27.) The ALJ indicated that Plaintiff made many "[i]nconsistent statements," causing the ALJ "to be cautious accepting the claimant's allegations in the absence of substantial objective medical support."*fn5 (Id. at 27.) Thus, ...


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