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Fuentes v. Astrue

January 28, 2010

LORRAINE FUENTES, 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

Plaintiff Lorraine Fuentes ("Fuentes") filed a Complaint on October 2, 2008. (Dkt. No. 3.) Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties filed Consents to proceed before Magistrate Judge Rosenberg on October 28 and November 19, 2008. (Dkt. Nos. 8-9.) The parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS") on July 22, 2009, that addresses the disputed issues in the case. (Dkt. No. 17.) The Commissioner filed the certified administrative record ("AR"). The Court has taken the Joint Stipulation under submission without oral argument.

Having reviewed the entire file, the Court concludes that the decision of the Commissioner is affirmed.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On May 25, 2006, Fuentes filed an application for supplemental security insurance benefits ("SSI"), alleging an onset date of January 1, 1999. AR 9, 71-73. The Commissioner denied the application initially and on reconsideration. AR 45-46. Fuentes requested a hearing. AR 61-65. On February 5, 2008, the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") conducted a hearing at which Fuentes and a vocational expert testified. AR 19-42. On March 14, 2008, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 6-18. Fuentes requested review. AR 5. On August 5, 2008, the Appeals Council denied review. AR 1-3. This lawsuit followed.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court has authority to review the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. The decision will be disturbed only if it is not supported by substantial evidence or 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).

In this context, "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 a conclusion." Vasquez v. Astrue, 572 F.3d 586, 591 (9th Cir. 2009) (citation and quotation marks omitted); Moncada, 60 F.3d at 523; see also Ryan v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 528 F.3d 1194, 1198 (9th Cir. 2008). When 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. Where the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the Court must defer to the decision of the Commissioner. Moncada, 60 F.3d at 523. //

III. EVALUATION OF DISABILITY

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

The ALJ found that Fuentes "has the following severe impairments: bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, alcohol dependence in possible remission, and a history of substance abuse." AR 11. She has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") "to perform simple, repetitive, entry level work at all exertional levels. She is limited to working with things, rather than people, and is precluded from work on dangerous machinery." AR 12. Fuentes "is capable of performing past relevant work as a stock checker or warehouse worker." AR 16. Even if she had no past relevant work, "there are jobs that exist in ...


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