Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Czajka v. Astrue

August 19, 2010

WANDA CZAJKA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Margaret A. Nagle United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff filed a Complaint on February 20, 2009, seeking review of the denial by the Social Security Commissioner ("Commissioner") of plaintiff's application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits ("DIB"). On March 30, 2009, the parties consented to proceed before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). The parties filed a Joint Stipulation on September 28, 2009, in which: plaintiff seeks an order reversing the Commissioner's decision and awarding benefits or, in the alternative, remanding the matter for further administrative proceedings; and defendant seeks an order affirming the Commissioner's decision. The Court has taken the parties' Joint Stipulation under submission without oral argument.

SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS

On September 15, 1997, plaintiff filed a prior application for a period of disability and DIB, which was denied at the initial level. (Administrative Record ("A.R.") 73, 444.) Plaintiff did not appeal the denial. (A.R. 444.)

On April 26, 2006, plaintiff filed another application for a period of disability and DIB, alleging an inability to work from January 10, 1991, through December 31, 1995, the date last insured, due to open heart surgery and bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome. (A.R. 13, 69-71, 77.) Plaintiff has past relevant work experience as a commercial cleaner, hand packager, and assembler. (A.R. 78, 448-50, 461-62.)

The Commissioner denied plaintiff's application initially and upon reconsideration.*fn1 (A.R. 52-56, 59-63.) On April 26, 2007, plaintiff filed a Request for Hearing before an administrative law judge. (A.R. 51.) On April 16, 2008, plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, testified at a hearing before Administrative Law Judge Helen E. Hesse ("ALJ").*fn2 (A.R. 444-57, 460-61, 465.) Sami Nafoosi, a medical expert, and Alan Ey, a vocational expert, also testified at the hearing. (A.R. 453-70.) On September 2, 2008, the ALJ denied plaintiff's application. (A.R. 11-21.) The Appeals Council subsequently denied plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision. (A.R. 4-6.)

SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

The ALJ found that plaintiff did not engage in substantial gainful activity from January 10, 1991, the alleged onset date of disability, through December 31, 1995, the date she was last insured. (A.R. 13.) The ALJ determined that plaintiff had the severe impairments of: bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, status post bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome releases; right knee pain; and low back pain.*fn3 (A.R. 13.) The impairments did not meet or equal one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (A.R. 15.)

The ALJ determined that plaintiff had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to:

perform light work as defined in 20 [C.F.R.] 404.1567(b) except with the ability to stand and walk six hours in an eight hour workday and sit eight hours in an eight hour workday, with the ability to briefly change position for 1-3 minutes once every hour, occasionally push and pull with the right lower extremity, and occasionally climb stairs, bend, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl, but no climbing of ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, with the need to avoid work at unprotected heights, use of vibrating tools, or with both upper extremities, any power gripping, grasping, or power torquing.

(A.R. 15.) The ALJ found that plaintiff was unable to perform any past relevant work. (A.R. 19.) Having considered plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, and relying upon testimony from the vocational expert, the ALJ found that jobs existed in the national economy that plaintiff could have performed through the date last insured, such as cashier II, parking lot attendant, and arcade attendant. (A.R. 20-21.)

Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff was not disabled, as defined in the Social Security Act, from January 10, 1991, the alleged onset date, through December 31, 1995, the date last insured. (A.R. 20.)

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the Commissioner's decision to determine whether it is free from legal error and supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence is "'such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'" Id. (citation omitted). The "evidence must be more than a mere scintilla but not necessarily a preponderance." Connett v. Barnhart, 340 F.3d 871, 873 (9th Cir. 2003). While inferences from the record can constitute substantial evidence, only those "'reasonably drawn from the record'" will suffice. Widmark v. Barnhart, 454 F.3d 1063, 1066 (9th Cir. 2006)(citation omitted).

Although this Court cannot substitute its discretion for that of the Commissioner, the Court nonetheless must review the record as a whole, "weighing both the evidence that supports and the evidence that detracts from the [Commissioner's] conclusion." Desrosiers v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 846 F.2d 573, 576 (9th Cir. 1988); see also Jones v. Heckler, 760 F.2d 993, 995 (9th Cir. 1985). "The ALJ is responsible for determining credibility, resolving conflicts in medical testimony, and for resolving ambiguities." Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 1995).

The Court will uphold the Commissioner's decision when the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation. Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005). However, the Court may review only the reasons stated by the ALJ in his decision "and may not affirm the ALJ on a ground upon which he did not rely." Orn, 495 F.3d at 630; see also Connett, 340 F.3d at 874. The Court will not reverse the Commissioner's decision if it is based on harmless error, which exists only when it is "clear from the record that an ALJ's error was 'inconsequential to the ultimate non-disability determination.'" Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 885 (9th Cir. 2006)(quoting Stout v. Comm'r, 454 F.3d 1050, 1055 (9th Cir. 2006)); see also Burch, 400 F.3d at 679.

DISCUSSION

Plaintiff alleges the following four issues: (1) whether the ALJ properly found that plaintiff was capable of performing the jobs of cashier II, parking lot attendant, and arcade attendant; (2) whether the ALJ properly considered the treating physicians'*fn4 opinions; (3) whether the ALJ posed a complete hypothetical to the vocational expert; and (4) whether the ALJ properly considered the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.