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Koontz v. Astrue

July 2, 2010

ANN M. KOONTZ, 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

Ann M. Koontz filed this action on April 22, 2009. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before Magistrate Judge Rosenberg on May 15 and May 18, 2009. On November 18, 2009, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS") that addressed 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 a calculation of benefits.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

In August 2003, Koontz filed an application for disability insurance benefits alleging an onset date of January 8, 2001. Administrative Record ("AR") 13, 96-98. The application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. AR 24-25. An Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") conducted a hearing on February 21, 2007. AR 384-419. On May 17, 2007, the ALJ issued a partially favorable decision, finding that Koontz has been disabled beginning on September 1, 2006. AR 20. On March 5, 2009, the Appeals Council denied Lozano'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

The ALJ found Koontz met the insured status requirements through September 30, 2006. AR 13. Koontz had the following severe impairments since her alleged onset date of disability, January 8, 2001: major depressive disorder and panic disorder with agoraphobia. AR 15. Since September 1, 2006, Koontz "also exhibits severe hepatosplenomegaly;*fn1 diabetes mellitus; hypertension; left hip bursitis; and history of ovarian cancer. Prior to September 1, 2006, [her] hepatosplenomegaly, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and history of ovarian cancer were not severe, and her bursitis was not medically determinable." Id. (citation omitted).

The ALJ found that "prior to September 1, 2006, [Koontz] had the residual functional capacity to perform simple repetitive tasks in unskilled settings," and "was capable of performing her past relevant work as an assembler." AR 16, 19. "As of September 1, 2006, the claimant's severe physical impairments further limit her to the performance of light work, lifting and/or carrying 10 pounds frequently and 20 pounds occasionally, ...


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