The opinion of the court was delivered by: Carla M. Woehrle United States Magistrate Judge
The parties have consented, under 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), to the jurisdiction of the undersigned Magistrate Judge. Plaintiff seeks review of the Commissioner's denial of disability benefits. The court finds that judgment should be granted in favor of Defendant, affirming the Commissioner's decision.
Plaintiff Emily Speelman was born on June 6, 1988, and was twenty-one years old at the time of her administrative hearing. [Administrative Record ("AR") 98, 36.] She completed her high school education through home-schooling and has taken some community college classes. [AR 15, 43-44, 47.] She has no past relevant work experience. [AR 103.] Plaintiff alleges disability on the basis of attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity, and temporal lobe syndrome with rage. [AR 103.]
II. PROCEEDINGS IN THIS COURT
Plaintiff's complaint was lodged on June 26, 2009, and filed on July 7, 2009. On December 8, 2009, Defendant filed an Answer and Plaintiff's Administrative Record ("AR"). On February 11, 2010, the parties filed their Joint Stipulation ("JS") identifying matters not in dispute, issues in dispute, the positions of the parties, and the relief sought by each party. This matter has been taken under submission without oral argument.
III. PRIOR ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS
Plaintiff applied for supplemental security income ("SSI") on June 15, 2006, alleging disability since June 1, 1992. [JS 2.] The Plaintiff had two prior childhood disability applications -- from June 29, 2001 and June 28, 2002 -- which were denied and not appealed. [AR 8.] After the current application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing, which was held on July 18, 2008, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") F. Keith Varni. Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testimony was taken from Plaintiff and Plaintiff's mother. [AR 36.] A second administrative hearing was conducted by ALJ Varni on January 6, 2009. [AR 25.] Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testimony was taken from vocational expert Joseph Moony. [Id.] The ALJ denied benefits in a decision dated March 3, 2009. [AR 8-16.] When the Appeals Council denied review on May 8, 2009, the ALJ's decision became the Commissioner's final decision. [AR 1.]
Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), a district court may review the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. The Commissioner's (or ALJ's) findings and decision should be upheld if they are free of legal error and supported by substantial evidence. However, if the court determines that a finding is based on legal error or is not supported by substantial evidence in the record, the court may reject the finding and set aside the decision to deny benefits. See Aukland v. Massanari, 257 F.3d 1033, 1035 (9th Cir. 2001); Tonapetyan v. Halter, 242 F.3d 1144, 1147 (9th Cir. 2001); Osenbrock v. Apfel, 240 F.3d 1157, 1162 (9th Cir. 2001); Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1097 (9th Cir. 1999); Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 720 (9th Cir. 1998); Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996); Moncada v. Chater, 60 F.3d 521, 523 (9th Cir. 1995)(per curiam). "Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance." Reddick, 157 F.3d at 720. It is "relevant evidence which a reasonable person might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Id. To determine whether substantial evidence supports a finding, a court must review the administrative record as a whole, "weighing both the evidence that supports and the evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's conclusion." Id. "If the evidence can reasonably support either affirming or reversing," the reviewing court "may not substitute its judgment" for that of the Commissioner. Reddick, 157 F.3d at 720-721; see also Osenbrock, 240 F.3d at 1162.
A. THE FIVE-STEP EVALUATION
To be eligible for disability benefits a claimant must demonstrate a medically determinable impairment which prevents the claimant from engaging in substantial gainful activity and which is expected to result in death or to last for a continuous period of at least twelve months. Tackett, 180 F.3d at 1098; Reddick, 157 F.3d at 721; 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).
Disability claims are evaluated using a five-step test:
Step one: Is the claimant engaging in substantial gainful activity? If so, the claimant is found not disabled. ...