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Flores v. Astrue

September 29, 2010

RAYMOND J. FLORES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Frederick F. Mumm United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

Plaintiff brings this action seeking to overturn the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying his applications for a period of disability, disability benefits, and Supplemental Security Income benefits. On January 6, 2009 and February 25, 2009, plaintiff and defendant, respectively, consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Pursuant to the case management order entered on December 11, 2008, on September 1, 2009, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation (the "JS") detailing each party's arguments and authorities. The Court has reviewed the administrative record (the "AR"), filed by defendant on July 15, 2009, and the JS. For the reasons stated below, the decision of the Commissioner is reversed and this matter is remanded for further proceedings.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On February 22, 2006, plaintiff filed applications for a period of disability, disability benefits, and Supplemental Security Income benefits. Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration. Plaintiff requested a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"). ALJ F. Keith Varni held a hearing on February 4, 2008. (AR 17 - 27.) Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified at the hearing. (See id.)

The ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. (AR 5 - 16.) Plaintiff sought review of the decision before the Social Security Administration Appeals Council. The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review on September 24, 2008. (AR 1 - 3.)

Plaintiff filed his complaint herein on December 4, 2008.

CONTENTIONS

Plaintiff raises four issues in this action:

1. Whether the ALJ properly considered the State Agency findings regarding plaintiff's multiple moderate limitations;

2. Whether the ALJ properly developed the record;

3. Whether the ALJ properly considered the treating physician's opinion regarding plaintiff's cluster headaches; and

4. Whether the ALJ should have obtained vocational expert testimony.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the Commissioner's decision to determine whether the Commissioner'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. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 28 L.Ed. 2d 842 (1971); Desrosiers v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 846 F.2d 573, 575-76 (9th Cir. 1988). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401. This Court must review the record as a whole and consider adverse as well as supporting evidence. Green v. Heckler, 803 F.2d 528, 529-30 (9th Cir. 1986). Where evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the Commissioner's decision must be upheld. Gallant v. Heckler, 753 F.2d 1450, 1452 (9th Cir. ...


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