Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Anderson v. Astrue

June 23, 2010

JERRY L. ANDERSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Margaret A. Nagle United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff filed a Complaint on March 27, 2009, seeking review of the denial by the Social Security Commissioner ("Commissioner") of plaintiff's application for supplemental security income ("SSI"). On April 14, 2009, the parties consented to proceed before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). The parties filed a Joint Stipulation on October 30, 2009, in which: plaintiff seeks an order reversing the Commissioner's decision and awarding benefits or, in the alternative, remanding the matter for further administrative proceedings; and defendant seeks an order affirming the Commissioner's decision. The Court has taken the parties' Joint Stipulation under submission without oral argument.

SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS

On October 31, 2006, plaintiff filed an application for SSI, alleging an inability to work since June 2, 1997, due to: a spinal cord injury; degenerative changes to the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine; status post-bilateral carpal tunnel releases; depression; and pain. (Administrative Record ("A.R.") 81-87, 103.)*fn1 Plaintiff has past relevant work experience as a packer for a moving company and machine operator. (A.R. 94.)

The Commissioner denied plaintiff's application initially (A.R. 52-56) and on reconsideration (A.R. 57-61). On May 13, 2008, plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, testified at a hearing before Administrative Law Judge F. Keith Varni ("ALJ"). (A.R. 32-49.) On June 25, 2008, the ALJ denied plaintiff's claims (A.R. 8-16), and the Appeals Council subsequently denied plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision (A.R. 1-3).

SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

The ALJ found that plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since October 31, 2006, the application date. (A.R. 10.) The ALJ determined that plaintiff has "severe" impairments involving the musculoskeletal and genitourinary systems,*fn2 but she does not have any impairment or combination of impairments that meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments in Appendix 1, Subpart P, Regulations No. 4. (A.R. 10-11.) The ALJ found that plaintiff does not have a "severe" mental impairment. (A.R. 10.)

In setting forth plaintiff's residual functional capacity ("RFC"), the ALJ relied on the opinion of a non-examining State agency review physician, who found that plaintiff retains the ability to:

perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 416.967(b) except postural limitations (i.e., climbing ramps/stairs, balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching and crawling) can be done on an occasional basis [and plaintiff] cannot climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds.

(A.R. 11, 13.) The ALJ found that plaintiff is unable to perform any of her past relevant work, but using the Medical-Vocational Rules (the "Grids") as a framework, the ALJ determined that jobs exist in significant numbers in the national economy that plaintiff can perform. (A.R. 15.)

Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff was not under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, since October 31, 2006, the date the application was filed. (A.R. 15.)

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the Commissioner's decision to determine whether it is free from legal error and supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence is "'such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'" Id. (citation omitted). The "evidence must be more than a mere scintilla but not necessarily a preponderance." Connett v. Barnhart, 340 F.3d 871, 873 (9th Cir. 2003). While inferences from the record can constitute substantial evidence, only those "'reasonably drawn from the record'" will suffice. Widmark v. Barnhart, 454 F.3d 1063, 1066 (9th Cir. 2006)(citation omitted).

Although this Court cannot substitute its discretion for that of the Commissioner, the Court nonetheless must review the record as a whole, "weighing both the evidence that supports and the evidence that detracts from the [Commissioner's] conclusion." Desrosiers v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 846 F.2d 573, 576 (9th Cir. 1988); see also Jones v. Heckler, 760 F.2d 993, 995 (9th Cir. 1985). "The ALJ is responsible for determining credibility, resolving conflicts in medical testimony, and for resolving ambiguities." Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039-40 (9th Cir. 1995).

The Court will uphold the Commissioner's decision when the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation. Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005). However, the Court may review only the reasons stated by the ALJ in his decision "and may not affirm the ALJ on a ground upon which he did not rely." Orn, 495 F.3d at 630; see also Connett, 340 F.3d at 874. The Court will not reverse the Commissioner's decision if it is based on harmless error, which exists only when it is "clear from the record that an ALJ's error was 'inconsequential to the ultimate non-disability determination.'" Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 885 (9th Cir. 2006)(quoting Stout v. Comm'r, 454 F.3d 1050, 1055-56 (9th Cir. 2006)); see also Burch, 400 F.3d at 679.

DISCUSSION

Plaintiff alleges the following five issues: (1) whether the ALJ properly considered the opinion of examining physician George Watkin, M.D.; (2) whether the ALJ properly considered the opinion of examining physician Bijan Zardouz, M.D., regarding plaintiff's temporary total disability; (3) whether the ALJ properly considered plaintiff's mental impairment; (4) whether the ALJ properly complied with the SSR 96-7p requirement that he consider the type, dosage, effectiveness, and side effects of plaintiff's ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.