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Schneider v. Astrue

May 13, 2010

JULIE SCHNEIDER, 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

Julie Schneider filed this action on January 5, 2009. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties filed Statements of Consent to proceed before Magistrate Judge Rosenberg on March 5 and 12, 2009. (Dkt. Nos. 6-7.) On September 24, 2009, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS") that addressed the disputed issues. The Commissioner filed the Certified Administrative Record ("AR"). The Court has taken the matter under submission without oral argument.

Having reviewed the entire file, the Court reverses the Commissioner's decision and remands for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On March 8, 2000, Schneider filed an application for disability insurance benefits. AR 19, 53-54. The application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. AR 40-41. On February 4, 2004, Schneider requested a hearing. AR 19, 50. The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") conducted a hearing on July 13, 2006. AR 451-481. On May 24, 2007, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 16-28. Schneider filed a request for review of the ALJ's decision. AR 12. On November 6, 2008, the Appeals Council denied the request for review. AR 6-9. This lawsuit followed.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews 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).

"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." Moncada, 60 F.3d at 523. In 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. When the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the Court must defer to the Commissioner's decision. Moncada, 60 F.3d at 523.

III. DISCUSSION

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).

A. The ALJ's Findings

Schneider last met the insured status requirements for disability insurance benefits on June 30, 2001. AR 22.

The ALJ found that Schneider had the following severe impairments: "migraine headaches, cervical facet joint syndrome, myofascial pain syndrome, numbness in both upper and lower extremities, and a history of cervical cancer." Id. Schneider had the residual functional capacity "for light work with the ability to lift and carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, stand/walk for six hours out of an eight hour day and . . . sit for six hours out of an eight hour day." AR ...


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