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Quintanar v. Astrue

March 19, 2010

CYNTHIA QUINTANAR, ON BEHALF OF J.N., PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Oswald Parada United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION; ORDER

The Court*fn1 now rules as follows with respect to the disputed issues listed in the Joint Stipulation ("JS").*fn2

I. DISPUTED ISSUES

As reflected in the Joint Stipulation, the disputed issues which Plaintiff*fn3 raises as the grounds for reversal and/or remand are as follows:

1. Whether the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") properly considered the lay witness's testimony;

2. Whether the ALJ properly considered the examining psychologist's opinion;

3. Whether the ALJ properly considered the teachers' questionnaires;

4. Whether the ALJ properly considered the treating psychiatrist's opinion; and

5. Whether the ALJ properly considered the speech pathologists' speech and language reports.

(JS at 3.)

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the Commissioner's decision to determine whether the Commissioner'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. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 28 L.Ed. 2d 842 (1971); Desrosiers v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 846 F.2d 573, 575-76 (9th Cir. 1988). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401 (citation omitted). The Court must review the record as a whole and consider adverse as well as supporting evidence. Green v. Heckler, 803 F.2d 528, 529-30 (9th Cir. 1986). Where evidence is susceptible of more than one rational interpretation, the Commissioner's decision must be upheld. Gallant v. Heckler, 753 F.2d 1450, 1452 (9th Cir. 1984).

III. DISCUSSION

A. The ALJ's Findings

Plaintiff, on behalf of her son, J.N., a 10 year-old male, brings this action appealing a denial of Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") benefits. Plaintiff asserts an onset date of disability of January 27, 2005, due to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ("ADHD"), learning disorder, anxiety disorder, and asthma. (JS at 2.)

After an August 16, 2007, hearing (see Administrative Record ("AR") at 564-80), the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision (id. at 10-23). After the Appeals Council denied review, Plaintiff filed a civil action in this Court, EDCV 08-447-OP. On September 26, 2008, this Court issued an order of remand based on the parties' Stipulation to Voluntary Remand. On October 15, 2008, the Appeals Council vacated the decision and remanded the case for further proceedings. (Id. at 613-14.)

On February 17, 2009, a subsequent hearing was held before the same ALJ. (Id. at 618-32.) On March 13, 2009, the ALJ issued his decision, finding that J.N. had the severe impairments of ADHD, combined type; learning disorder in basic reading skills and math calculation; anxiety disorder, not otherwise specified; asthma; and obstructive sleep apnea. (Id. at 587.) The ALJ found that J.N. did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or equaled a listing, and, therefore, was not disabled. (Id. at 587-88, 597.)

B. Lay Witness Testimony

Plaintiff contends there is no indication in the decision whether the ALJ considered her hearing testimony, and that the ALJ failed to provide germane reasons for rejecting her testimony. (JS at 3-4.) She contends this testimony lends support to J.N.'s difficulty in attending and completing tasks. (Id. at 4.)

Specifically, at the hearing, Plaintiff testified that J.N. gets "very easily distracted" and does not follow through with chores. (AR at 624-25.) She stated that J.N. takes out the trash, but that "[h]e doesn't seem to comprehend . . . which receptacle to put it in." (Id. at 625.) With regard to schoolwork, Plaintiff testified that she has someone who assists J.N. with his homework, and that if J.N. is left alone, he will not follow through. (Id. at 626.) She testified that J.N. has been cited for fighting and disrupting the classroom. (Id. at 630-31.) She testified that J.N.'s ...


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