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Romo v. Astrue

August 26, 2010

NANCY EIL ROMO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John E. Mcdermott United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER REVERSING DECISION OF COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY AND REMANDING FOR FURTHER PROCEEDINGS

PROCEEDINGS

On July 17, 2009, Nancy Eil Romo ("Plaintiff" or "Claimant" or "Romo") filed a complaint seeking review of the decision by the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying Plaintiff's application for both Social Security disability insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income. The Commissioner filed an Answer on November 16, 2009. On January 21, 2010, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS").

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), both parties consented to proceed before the Magistrate Judge. The matter is now ready for decision. After reviewing the pleadings, transcripts, and administrative record ("AR"), the Court concludes that the Commissioner's decision should be reversed and remanded for further proceedings in accordance with law and with this Memorandum Opinion and Order.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is a 57 year old female who was determined to have the medically determinable severe impairments of lower extremity cellulitis, obesity, right shoulder rotator cuff tear, hypertension, and pain. (AR 12.) Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since October 4, 2006, the alleged onset date. (AR 12.)

Plaintiff's claim was denied initially on February 21, 2007, and on reconsideration on March 22, 2007. (AR 10.) She filed a timely request for hearing, which was held before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Thomas Gaye on December 8, 2009, in San Bernardino, California. (AR 10, 16.) Claimant appeared and testified. (AR 10.) So did vocational expert Troy Scott. (AR 10).

The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on March 16, 2000. (AR 10-16.) The ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity ("RFC")*fn1 to perform her past relevant work as a telephone order clerk and thus is not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. (AR 16.)

DISPUTED ISSUES

As reflected in the Joint Stipulation, the disputed issues that Plaintiff raises as grounds for reversal are as follows:

1. Whether the ALJ has properly considered all of the relevant medical evidence of record in addressing Plaintiff's residual functional capacity?

2. Whether the ALJ has properly considered Plaintiff's subjective complaints and properly assessed Plaintiff's credibility?

3. Whether the ALJ has properly considered the relevant vocational evidence of record?

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the ALJ's decision to determine whether the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence and whether the proper legal standards were applied. DeLorme v. Sullivan, 924 F.2d 841, 846 (9th Cir. 1991). Substantial evidence means "'more than a mere scintilla'... but less than a preponderance." Saelee v. Chater, 94 F.3d 520, 521-22 (9th Cir. 1996) (quoting Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)).

Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401 (internal quotations and citation omitted). This Court must review the record as a whole and consider adverse as well as supporting evidence. Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006). Where evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the ALJ's decision must be upheld. Morgan v. Comm'r, 169 F.3d 595, 599 (9th Cir. 1999). "However, a reviewing court must consider the entire record as a whole and may not affirm simply by isolating a 'specific quantum of supporting evidence.'" Robbins, 466 F.3d at 882 (quoting Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989)); see also Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007).

SEQUENTIAL EVALUATION

The Social Security Act defines disability as the "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or... can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). The Commissioner has established a five-step sequential process to determine whether a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920.

The first step is to determine whether the claimant is presently engaging in substantially gainful activity. Parra v. Astrue, 481 F.3d 742, 746 (9th Cir. 2007). If the claimant is engaging in substantially ...


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