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Patterson v. Astrue

April 26, 2010

KENNETH PATTERSON, 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 Kenneth Patterson filed a Complaint on September 4, 2008. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before Magistrate Judge Rosenberg on October 3 and 9, 2008. (Dkt. Nos. 8-9.) The parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS") on July 14, 2009, that addressed the disputed issues in the case. (Dkt. No. 20.) 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 affirms the Commissioner's decision.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

In May 6, 2003, Patterson filed an application for supplemental security income benefits, alleging a disability onset date of January 1, 2002. AR 11-13, 146-50. The application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. AR 49. Patterson requested a hearing. On February 25, 2005, an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") issued an order of dismissal based on Patterson's failure to appear at his hearing and counsel's representation that he was unable to reach him. AR 73-74. On September 9, 2005, the Appeals Council vacated the ALJ's order of dismissal and remanded for further proceedings. AR 126-28. On January 17, 2006, a different ALJ conducted a hearing at which Patterson, a vocational expert ("VE") and a medical expert testified. AR 751-75. On May 13, 2006, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 46-56. Patterson requested review. On November 1, 2006, the Appeals Council vacated the ALJ's decision and remanded for resolution of certain issues detailed in its order. AR 37-40.

On remand, on April 24, 2008, a different ALJ conducted a hearing at which Patterson and a VE testified.*fn1 AR 782-801. On May 21, 2008, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 8-20. Patterson requested review. The Appeals Council denied review on July 17, 2008. AR 5-7. 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 the conclusion." Vasquez v. Astrue, 572 F.3d 586, 591 (9th Cir. 2009); Moncada, 60 F.3d at 523; see also Ryan v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 528 F.3d 1194, 1202 (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 Patterson has the following severe impairments: "a depressive disorder, alcohol abuse, a personality disorder, a seizure disorder and a history of fracture of the right wrist and left ankle with residual pain." AR 14. Patterson has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform sedentary work "as [he] can lift and/or carry 10 pounds frequently and 20 pounds occasionally, sit 6 hours and stand or walk 2 hours in an 8-hour workday, and can occasionally kneel, crouch and crawl. In addition, [he] has no mental restrictions in daily activities and no difficulties in maintaining social functioning. His concentration, persistence or pace is not impaired and he has no repeated episodes of emotional deterioration in work-like situations. [He] has no limitations in his abilities to understand, remember ...


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