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Frazier v. Astrue

September 17, 2009

WILLIAM R. FRAZIER, 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 Supplemental Security Income benefits. On January 4, 2008 and April 18, 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 January 2, 2008, on September 10, 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 July 3, 2008, and the Joint Stipulation (the "JS"). For the reasons stated below, the decision of the Commissioner is reversed and remanded.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On March 17, 2005, plaintiff applied for Supplemental Security Income benefits. (AR 77-79.) Plaintiff's application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. (AR 46-51, 63-67.) Plaintiff requested a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"). (AR 56.) ALJ Jay Levine held a hearing on July 6, 2007. (AR 277-305.) Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified at the hearing. (See id.)

On August 7, 2007, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. (AR 11-20.) Plaintiff sought review of the decision before the Social Security Administration Appeals Council. (AR 7.) The Appeals Council denied review on November 21, 2007. (AR 4-6.)

Plaintiff filed his complaint herein on December 19, 2007.

CONTENTIONS

Plaintiff raises four issues in this action:

1. Whether the ALJ properly considered the opinion of Dr. Zimmerman, a treating psychiatrist;

2. Whether the ALJ properly considered the opinion of William MacMorran, M.D., another treating psychiatrist;

3. Whether the ALJ properly considered the lay witness testimony; and

4. Whether the ALJ posed a complete hypothetical to the vocational expert.

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. ...


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