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Cox v. Astrue

July 20, 2010

JACQUELINE F. COX, 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

Jacqueline Cox filed this action on June 17, 2010. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before Magistrate Judge Rosenberg on July 13, 2009, and June 24, 2010. (Dkt. Nos. 6, 12.) On January 25, 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 proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On June 2, 2008, and June 17, 2008, respectively, Cox filed an application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income benefits alleging a disability onset date of April 29, 2008. AR 14. The applications were denied initially. AR 14, 85. An Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") conducted a hearing on January 29, 2009, at which Cox, a medical expert ("ME") and a vocational expert testified. AR 28-71. On March 9, 2009, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 11-22. On April 23, 2009, the Appeals Council denied the request for review. AR 1-4. This lawsuit 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 is eligible for 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 that Cox met the insured status requirements through March 31, 2009. AR 16. Cox has the following severe impairments: "Degenerative Disc Disease of the cervical spine, arthritis, and obesity." AR 17. Cox has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") "to lift or carry 20 pounds occasionally, 10 pounds frequently, stand or walk for 2 hours in an 8-hour work day with normal breaks, sit for 6 hours in an 8-hour work day and a sit stand option is required. She is precluded from ladders, ropes and scaffolds or from working around hazards such as heights or moving machinery. She is able to push and pull with foot pedals occasionally. She is able to balance, stoop, crouch, kneel, bend, and crawl occasionally." AR 19. Cox cannot perform her ...


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