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Carpenter v. Astrue

July 12, 2010

HAROLD CARPENTER, 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

Harold Carpenter filed this action on July 1, 2009. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before Magistrate Judge Rosenberg on July 23 and July 31, 2009. On December 30, 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 affirms the decision of the Commissioner.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On August 21, 2002, and August 2, 2004, respectively, Carpenter filed applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income benefits alleging an onset date of May 21, 2001. Administrative Record ("AR") 12, 105-07. The applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration. AR 83-87, 92-97. An Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") conducted hearings on August 22, 2006, and January 22, 2007, at which Carpenter and a vocational expert testified. AR 1371-1418.

On February 23, 2007, the ALJ issued a partially favorable decision and found that Carpenter was disabled for the closed period of May 21, 2001 through July 14, 2002. AR 39-52. On May 4, 2007, the ALJ amended the decision. AR 29. On June 28, 2007, the ALJ again amended the decision, which superseded the original decision dated February 23, 2007 and the amendment dated May 4, 2007. AR 12-25. The ALJ found Carpenter disabled for the same closed period. On April 20, 2009, the Appeals Council denied Carpenter's request for review. AR 5-7. 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 Carpenter met the insured status requirements as of May 21, 2001, the date he became disabled. AR 16. Carpenter has the following severe impairments: "disorders of the thoracic spine, lumbar ...


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