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Cheatham v. Astrue

August 9, 2010

NICOLE R. CHEATHAM, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL A. 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

Plaintiff Nicole R. Cheatham ("Cheatham") filed a Complaint on June 2, 2009. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties filed Consents to proceed before Magistrate Judge Rosenberg on July 14 and 16, 2009. (Dkt. Nos. 6-7.) The parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS") on February 11, 2010, that addressed the disputed issues. The commissioner filed the certified administrative record ("AR"). The Court has taken the Joint Stipulation under submission without oral argument.

Having reviewed the entire file, the Court affirms the decision of the Commissioner.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On July 14, 2006, Cheatham filed an application for disability insurance benefits alleging an onset date of September 13, 2005. AR 11. The application was denied initially and on reconsideration. AR 18-19. Cheatham requested a hearing. AR 31. On June 9, 2008, an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") conducted a hearing at which Cheatham testified. AR 374-394. On July 7, 2008, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 8-17. On April 21, 2009, the Appeals Council denied the request for review. AR 4-7. This lawsuit followed.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court has authority to review the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. The decision will be disturbed only if it is not supported by substantial evidence or 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).

In this context, "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." Vasquez v. Astrue, 572 F.3d 586, 591 (9th Cir. 2009); Moncada, 60 F.3d at 523; see also Ryan v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 528 F.3d 1194, 1198 (9th Cir. 2008). When 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. Where the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the Court must defer to the decision of the Commissioner. Moncada, 60 F.3d at 523.

III. EVALUATION OF DISABILITY

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 Cheatham met the insured status requirements through December 31, 2010. AR 13. Cheatham has the following medically determinable severe impairment: "myofascial disorder." Id. Cheatham has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") "to perform the full range of light work." Id. The ALJ found that Cheatham is able to perform ...


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