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Wortman v. Astrue

June 30, 2010

LISA M. WORTMAN, 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

Lisa Wortman filed this action on March 10, 2009. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before Magistrate Judge Rosenberg on March 27, 2009. On October 7, 2009, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS") that addresses the disputed issues. The Court has taken the matter under submission without oral argument.

Having reviewed the entire file, the Court remands this matter to the Commissioner for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On August 26, 2005, Wortman filed an application for Supplemental Security Income benefits alleging a disability onset date of May 1, 1996. Administrative Record ("AR") 11, 31, 56. The application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. AR 11. An Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") conducted a hearing on February 26, 2008, at which Wortman testified. AR 242-259. The ALJ conducted a second hearing on September 9, 2008, at which a medical expert ("ME"), and a vocational expert ("VE") testified. AR 260-271. On October 22, 2008, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 11-18. The Appeals Council denied Wortman's request for review. AR 4-6. This action 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 if 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. Disability

A person qualifies as disabled, and thereby eligible for such 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

Wortman has the following severe combination of impairments: "degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, insulin dependent diabetes mellitus with diabetic neuropathy and nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy, asthma with chronic cigarette smoking, bilateral cataracts, and anxiety disorder not otherwise specified." AR 13.

Wortman has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work*fn1 "except occasionally climb, stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl, no climbing of ladders, ropes or scaffolds, avoid fumes, odors, and other similar pulmonary irritants, must work in an air-conditioned work environment, avoid unprotected heights, and no exposure to hazards such as moving machines.... [T]he claimant is not significantly limited in terms of performing mental work-related activities except for being moderately limited in terms of understanding, remembering and carrying out detailed instructions, maintaining concentration and attention for extended periods, making simple work-related decision[s], completing a normal workday and workweek without interruptions from psychologically based symptoms, and performing at a consistent pace without an unreasonable number and length of rest periods, interacting appropriately with the public, and responding appropriately to changes in the work setting. The claimant is able to understand and ...


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