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Lozano v. Astrue

July 1, 2010

BEATRIZ E. LOZANO, 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

Beatriz E. Lozano filed this action on March 11, 2009. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before Magistrate Judge Rosenberg on April 6 and April 8, 2009. (Dkt. Nos. 8-9.) On November 5, 2009, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS") that addressed the disputed issues. The Commissioner submitted the certified administrative record ("AR"). 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 further proceedings.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On August 30 and September 2, 2004, respectively, Lozano filed applications for Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance benefits alleging a disability onset date of August 5, 2003. AR 21, 67-74. The applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration. AR 43-46. An Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") conducted a hearing on January 23, 2007, at which Lozano and a vocational expert ("VE") testified. AR 515-32. On January 30, 2007, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 18-28. On January 27, 2009, the Appeals Council denied Lozano's request for review. AR 5-9. 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

The ALJ found Lozano meets the insured status requirements through December 31, 2008. AR 23. Lozano has the following severe impairments: "morbid obesity with obstructive sleep apnea; diabetes; hypertension; and degenerative joint disease of the knees." AR 24. She "has the residual functional capacity to lift/carry 10 pounds occasionally, less than 10 pounds frequently, stand/walk 2 hours, and sit 6 hours in an 8 hour day. She is able to stand or walk for 1 hour continuously, and sit for 4 hours continuously. She is unable to climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds. She is able to occasionally b[a]lance[,] stoop, kneel, crouch or crawl. She should avoid all ...


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