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Castaneda v. Astrue

December 15, 2009

ELISA R. CASTANEDA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John E. Mcdermott United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER AFFIRMING DECISION OF COMMISSIONER PROCEEDINGS

On September 25, 2008, Elisa R. Castaneda ("Plaintiff" or "Claimant"), filed a complaint seeking review of the decision by the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying Plaintiff's application for both Social Security disability insurance benefits and Supplemental Social Security income. The Commissioner filed an Answer on February 2, 2009. On July 31, 2009, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS").

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), both parties consented to proceed before the Magistrate Judge. The matter is now ready for decision. After reviewing the pleadings, transcripts, and administrative record ("AR"), the Court concludes that the Commissioner's decision should be affirmed.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is a 50 year old female who was determined to suffer from the severe impairment of lumbar spine impairment. (AR 13.) Plaintiff must establish an onset date of December 31, 2006. (AR 8.) She has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since December 31, 2006. (AR 13.)

Plaintiffs' claims were denied initially by the Social Security Administration ("SSA"). (AR 34-38.) On March 10, 2008, Plaintiff appeared and testified at a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). (AR 15-24.)

The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on April 24, 2008, denying Plaintiff's claim for benefits. (AR 5-14.) The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has severe lumbar spine impairment but that she has residual functional capacity ("RFC") to do medium or light work and can perform past relevant or alternative work. (AR 13.) The ALJ determined that Claimant has not been under a disability within the meaning of the Social Security Act at any time through the date of the decision. (AR 12, 13.)

Plaintiff filed a timely request for review of the ALJ's decision, which was denied by the Appeals Council on August 26, 2008. (AR 1-3.)

Of note is that the ALJ previously issued a decision on July 11, 2006, denying a prior application for benefits from Plaintiff. (AR 9.) The ALJ determined in that decision that Plaintiff had the residual capacity to perform light work and engage in substantial gainful activity in jobs and occupations specified by the vocational expert. (Id.) The ALJ found no new or material evidence to reopen the prior decision. (Id.)

DISPUTED ISSUES

As reflected in the Joint Stipulation, there is but one disputed issue: whether the ALJ properly considered the testimony of Elisa Castaneda.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the ALJ's decision to determine whether the ALJ'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." Saelee v. Chater, 94 F.3d 520, 521-22 (9th Cir. 1996) (quoting Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)).

Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401 (internal quotations and citations omitted). This Court must review the record as a whole and consider adverse as well as supporting evidence. Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006). Where evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the ALJ's decision must be upheld. Morgan v. Comm'r, 169 F.3d 595, 599 (9th Cir. 1999). "However, a reviewing court must consider the entire record as a whole and may not affirm simply by isolating a 'specific quantum of supporting evidence.'" Robbins, 466 F.3d at 882 (quoting Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989)); see also Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007).

DISCUSSION

The Court concludes that the ALJ's determination that Plaintiff is not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act is ...


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