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Phongsuwan v. Astrue

March 5, 2010

KHEM PHONGSUWAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gregory G. Hollows U.S. Magistrate Judge

ORDER

Plaintiff seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying her applications for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") and Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") under Titles XVI and II, respectively, of the Social Security Act ("Act"). For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED, the Commissioner's Cross Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED, and the Clerk is directed to enter judgment for the Commissioner.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, born February 3, 1959, applied on September 13, 2005 for disability benefits. (Tr. at 372, 99.) Plaintiff alleged she was unable to work due to depression, diabetes, asthma, back pain, pain and numbness in the hands, foot pain, sleep disturbance, and isolation.

(Tr. at 13.)

In a decision dated January 24, 2008, ALJ Mark C. Ramsey determined plaintiff was not disabled. The ALJ made the following findings:*fn1

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2009 (Exhibit B-8D).

2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since December 23, 2004, the alleged onset date ( 20 CFR 404.1520(b), 404.1571 et seq, 416.920(b) and 416.971 et seq.) (Exhibit B-7D).

3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: Depression and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).

4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).

5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following non-exertional limitations: she is limited to performing simple unskilled work activity. Unskilled work involves little or no judgment to do simple duties that can be learned on the job in a short period of time. Unskilled work would thus accommodate the claimant's mental limitation.

6. The claimant is capable of performing her past relevant work as a packer or worker in a dry cleaning establishment. This work does not require the performance of work-related activities precluded by the claimant's mental residual functional capacity (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).

(Tr. at 13-19.)

ISSUES PRESENTED

Plaintiff has raised the following issues: A. Whether the ALJ Rejected the Opinions of the Treating and Examining Physicians Without a Legitimate Basis; and B. Whether the ALJ Erred in Finding Plaintiff Capable of Past Relevant Work and Stopping the Sequential Evaluation.

LEGAL STANDARDS

The court reviews the Commissioner's decision to determine whether (1) it is based on proper legal standards pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), and (2) substantial evidence in the record as a whole supports it. Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1097 (9th Cir.1999). Substantial evidence is more than a mere scintilla, but less than a preponderance. Connett v. Barnhart, 340 F.3d 871, 873 (9th Cir. 2003) (citation omitted). It means "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007), quoting Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005). "The ALJ is responsible for determining credibility, resolving conflicts in medical testimony, and resolving ambiguities." Edlund v. Massanari, 253 F.3d 1152, 1156 (9th Cir. 2001) (citations omitted).

"The court will uphold the ALJ's conclusion when the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation." Tommasetti v. Astrue, ...


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