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Rivera v. Astrue

July 15, 2010

REINA I. RIVERA, 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

Reina Rivera filed this action on April 23, 2009. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before Magistrate Judge Rosenberg on April 30, 2009 and May 14, 2009. (Dkt. Nos. 8-9.) On January 5, 2010, 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 further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On December 7, 2005, Rivera filed applications for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income alleging a disability onset date of May 8, 2002. Administrative Record ("AR") 17. The applications were initially denied. AR 4, 17. An Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") conducted a hearing on July 2, 2007, at which Rivera and June Hagen, a vocational expert ("VE") testified. AR 137-152. On October 2, 2007, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 17-25. The Appeals Council denied Rivera'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

Rivera has the following severe combination of impairments: "cervical and lumbar spine degenerative disc disease/musculoligamentous strain." AR 19.

These severe impairments do not, either individually or in combination, meet or equal any condition listed in 20 C.F.R., Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (Listing of Impairments). AR 22. Rivera has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work*fn1 ...


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