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Cronin v. Astrue

February 25, 2010

DENISE CRONIN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Suzanne H. Segal United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Denise Cronin ("Plaintiff") seeks review of the decision of Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the "Commissioner" or the "Agency") denying her application for disability benefits. The parties consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). For the reasons stated below, the decision of the Commissioner is REVERSED and REMANDED for further proceedings.

II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits on March 1, 2007.*fn1 The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's claim on June 13, 2007. (Administrative Record ("AR") 62-65). The Commissioner later denied Plaintiff's request for reconsideration on July 11, 2007. (AR 66). Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge on July 31, 2007.

Administrative Law Judge Michael Radensky (the "ALJ") held a hearing on November 12, 2008. (AR 6-45). The ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's application for benefits on February 9, 2009. (AR 61). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on April 21, 2009. (AR 1-4). Plaintiff filed the current action on May 29, 2009.

III. THE ALJ'S DECISION

In his decision, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff suffered from morbid obesity, neck and low back pain, asthma, and fibromyalgia. (AR 53). The ALJ stated that Plaintiff's impairments could produce symptoms of pain and disability. (AR 56-57). However, he determined that the alleged intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of these symptoms alleged by Plaintiff were not credible. (See AR 57-58). As a result, he determined that Plaintiff was not disabled. (AR 61).

IV. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), a district court may review the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. The court may set aside the Commissioner's decision when the ALJ's findings are based on legal error or are not supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. Aukland v. Massanari, 257 F.3d 1033, 1035 (9th Cir. 2001); Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996).

"Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance." Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 720 (9th. Cir. 1998) (citing Jamerson v. Chater, 112 F. 3d 1064, 1066 (9th. Cir. 1997)). It is "relevant evidence which a reasonable person might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Id. To determine whether substantial evidence supports a finding, the court must "'consider the record as a whole, weighing both evidence that supports and evidence that detracts from the [Commissioner's] conclusion.'" Aukland, 257 F.3d at 1035 (quoting Penny v. Sullivan, 2 F.3d 953, 956 (9th Cir. 1993)). If the evidence can reasonably support either affirming or reversing that conclusion, the court may not substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Reddick, 157 F.3d at 720-21.

IV. DISCUSSION

Plaintiff contends that the Commissioner's decision should be reversed for two reasons. First, Plaintiff complains that the ALJ failed to give specific and legitimate reasons for rejecting Dr. Pamela Alvarez's findings. (Jt. Stip. at 4). Second, Plaintiff alleges that the ALJ failed to provide clear and convincing reasons for rejecting Plaintiff's subjective pain testimony. (Jt. Stip. at ...


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