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Ibarra v. Astrue

July 22, 2010

SAUL IBARRA, 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

Saul Ibarra filed this action on May 1, 2009. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before Magistrate Judge Rosenberg on May 13 and 14, 2009. (Dkt. Nos. 8-9.) On November 30, 2009, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS") that addresses 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 February 14, 2008, Ibarra filed an application for Social Security Disability Insurance ("SSDI") benefits. Administrative Record ("AR") 14. On February 29, 2008, Ibarra filed an application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") benefits. Id. In both applications, Ibarra alleged disability beginning September 1, 2007. Id. The applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration. Id. An Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") conducted a hearing on December 8, 2008, at which Ibarra, a medical expert ("ME"), and a vocational expert ("VE") testified. AR 14, 23-38. On February 24, 2009, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 14-22. The Appeals Council denied Ibarra's request for review. AR 1-3. 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

Ibarra has the following severe impairment: substance induced psychotic disorder. AR 17. Ibarra's impairment meets the criteria of Listings 12.03 and 12.09 of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. Id. Ibarra has a "marked restriction in the activities of daily living; marked difficulties in social functioning; marked difficulties regarding concentration, persistence or pace; with no episodes of decompensation of extended duration." AR 18. These restrictions "are related to and caused by [Ibarra's] substance abuse problems which continued to be evident throughout the alleged disability period." Id.

If Ibarra stopped the substance use, he would "continue to have a severe impairment or combination of impairments." AR 18. However, he would "not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals any of the ...


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