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Holsombach v. Astrue

September 10, 2010

CHRISTIAN HOLSOMBACH, 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 March 3, 2009, seeking review of the denial by the Social Security Commissioner ("Commissioner") of plaintiff's applications for supplemental security income ("SSI") and disability insurance benefits ("DIB"). On March 30, 2009, the parties consented to proceed before the undersigned Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).

The parties filed a Joint Stipulation on October 7, 2009, in which: plaintiff seeks an order reversing the Commissioner's decision and awarding benefits or, alternatively, remanding the case to the Commissioner for a new administrative hearing; and defendant asks that the Commissioner's decision be affirmed. The Court has taken the parties' Joint Stipulation ("Joint Stip.") under submission without oral argument.

SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS

Plaintiff filed his applications for SSI and DIB on August 3, 2005, alleging an inability to work since November 25, 2004, due to back injury, bone spurs in his back, degenerative disc disease, right knee problems, and diabetes. (Administrative Record ("A.R.") 12, 59, 82-95.) His past relevant work ("PRW") includes work as a truck driver, ranch hand, business owner, security officer, and fast food cook and driver, as well as serving in the infantry of the United States Army. (A.R. 137.)

Plaintiff's applications were denied initially on November 14, 2005, and upon reconsideration on January 13, 2006, and March 20, 2006. (A.R. 42-43, 53-57, 59-63.) Plaintiff requested a hearing. (A.R. 52.) On July 2, 2008, plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, testified at a hearing before Administrative Law Judge Thomas J. Gaye ("ALJ"). (A.R. 534-52.) On August 27, 2008, the ALJ issued a written decision finding that plaintiff is not disabled. (A.R. 10-18.) On January 23, 2009, the Appeals Counsel denied plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision. (A.R. 3-5.)

SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

The ALJ found that plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since November 25, 2004, his alleged disability onset date. (A.R. 12.)

The ALJ determined that plaintiff has a combination of severe impairments consisting of lumbar degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis of the knees with history of knee surgeries, cervical strain, diabetes, depressive disorder not otherwise specified, anxiety disorder not otherwise specified, and obesity. (A.R. 12.) The ALJ concluded that plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (A.R. 13.)

The ALJ found that plaintiff has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR §§ 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b), with the following limitations: stand/walk for four hours with five minutes of sitting for every 60 minutes of standing; sit for six hours with five minutes of standing for every 60 minutes of sitting; stoop, crouch, and climb on an occasional basis, up to approximately two hours in an eight hour workday; and balance on a frequent basis, from two to six hours in an eight-hour workday, although plaintiff needs to use a cane on the left side due to subjective instability. (A.R. 14.) The ALJ further found that plaintiff: is precluded from operating pedal controls with his right leg, walking on uneven terrain, and climbing ropes, ladders, or scaffolds; and has the mental RFC to perform simple, repetitive tasks. (Id.)

The ALJ determined that plaintiff is unable to perform any of his PRW. (A.R. 16.) The ALJ found that plaintiff: was born on April 26, 1973; was 31-years old at the onset of the alleged disability, putting plaintiff in the younger individual, age 18-49 category; possesses at least a high school education; and is able to communicate in English. (Id.) The ALJ found that transferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability, because the Medical-Vocational Rules, used as a framework, support a finding that plaintiff is "not disabled." (A.R. 16-17.) After considering the plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, and the testimony of a vocational expert, the ALJ found that there exist jobs in significant numbers in the national economy that plaintiff can perform. (A.R. 17.)

The ALJ concluded that plaintiff has not been under a disability, as defined by the Social Security Act, from November 25, 2004, through August 27, 2008, the date of the ALJ's decision. (A.R. 18.)

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 ...


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