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Crafton v. Astrue

October 7, 2009

MARY CRAFTON, 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

Mary Crafton filed this action on December 8, 2008. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before Magistrate Judge Rosenberg on February 25 and 27, 2009. (Dkt. Nos. 6-7.) On July 15, 2009, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS") that addressed the disputed issues. (Dkt. No. 13.) 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 October 12, 2005, Crafton filed an application for disability insurance benefits alleging an onset date of November 21, 2002. Administrative Record ("AR") 12. The application was denied initially. Id. An Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") conducted a hearing on October 24, 2007, at which Crafton, a medical expert ("ME"), and a vocational expert ("VE") testified. AR 19-49. On November 8, 2007, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 9-18. Crafton requested review. AR 6. On October 9, 2008, the Appeals Council denied Crafton's request for review. AR 1-4. 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 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).

B. The ALJ's Findings

The ALJ found that Crafton met the insured status requirements through March 31, 2008. AR 14. At Step Two of the sequential analysis, the ALJ found that "[t]he objective medical evidence fails to establish the existence of a medically determinable impairment that ...


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