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Marulli v. Astrue

September 30, 2010

MALEN J. MARULLI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Michael M. Anello United States District Judge

ORDER: ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION; [Doc. No. 21] DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; [Doc. No. 18] GRANTING DEFENDANT'S CROSS -MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [Doc. No. 20]

Pending before the Court is the Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge William V. Gallo, filed on June 15, 2010, recommending that the Court deny Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and grant Defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment. [Doc. No. 21.] On July 15, 2010, Plaintiff Malen Marulli ("Plaintiff") filed an objection to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation and on July 16, 2010, Defendant filed its reply. [Doc. Nos. 22,23.]

Having considered the arguments of the parties and for the reasons noted herein, the Court ADOPTS the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation ("Report").

BACKGROUND

On July 15, 2002, Plaintiff filed a Title II application ("initial application") for disability insurance benefits. On February 1, 2005, the initial application was dismissed due to an untimely filing of a request for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.

On February 11, 2005, Plaintiff filed a new Title II application and a Title XVI application for supplemental security income disability insurance benefits. Administrative Law Judge Larry B. Parker ("ALJ") determined that Plaintiff was disabled as of February 2, 2005. The ALJ declined to reopen Plaintiff's initial application for benefits. Plaintiff appealed the ALJ's decision not to reopen the initial application, and the appeals council denied the request for review.

On April 13, 2007, Plaintiff filed an action in this Court, requesting the initial application be reopened. The District Court remanded the case to the ALJ for proceedings to determine whether Plaintiff's initial application should be reopened for good cause. The District Court found Plaintiff had asserted a "colorable constitutional claim" that raised doubts as to whether she had a mental impairment that prevented her from filing a timely request for hearing. On January 5, 2009, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled prior to February 1, 2005. The ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner. (Administrative Record ("A.R.") at 618-628).

On April 29, 2009, Plaintiff filed the instant action for judicial review. [Doc.1.]

LEGAL STANDARD

The duties of a district court in connection with a Magistrate Judge's Report are set forth in Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Where the parties object to a Report, "[a] judge of the [district] court shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the [Report] to which objection is made." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); see Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 149--50 (1985). A district court may "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Wilkins v. Ramirez, 455 F.Supp.2d 1080, 1088 (S.D. Cal. 2006).

The Social Security Act provides for the payment of disability benefits if a claimant is unable 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 which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than twelve months." 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i), 423(d)(1)(A). To obtain benefits, the claimant's impairment must result from "anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities which are demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(3); Gallant v. Heckler, 753 F.2d 1450, 1452 (9th Cir. 1984). Furthermore, the impairment must be 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." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A).

A claimant who is unsuccessful in obtaining benefits under the Social Security Act may seek judicial review of the Commissioner's final agency decision. 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3). However, the scope of review is limited. A court may not overturn the Commissioner's final action unless (1) the ALJ's findings of fact are not supported by substantial evidence, or (2) the ALJ failed to apply the proper legal standards. See Flatten v. Secretary of Health and Human Svcs., 44 F.3d 1453, 1457 (9th Cir. 1995). "Substantial evidence" means evidence a reasonable person might accept as adequate to support the ALJ's conclusion, considering the record as a whole. See Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002). In other words, substantial evidence means "more than a scintilla but less than a preponderance" of the evidence. Jamerson v. Chater, 112 F.3d 1064, 1066 (9th Cir. 1997). The Court must consider both the evidence that supports and detracts from the Commissioner's conclusions. See Mayes v. Massanari, 276 F.3d 453, 459 (9th Cir. 2001); Desrosiers v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 846 F.2d 573, 576 (9th Cir. 1988).

Even if substantial evidence supports the ALJ's findings, a court must set the decision aside if the ALJ failed to apply the proper legal standards in weighing the evidence and reaching a decision. See Benitez v. Califano, 573 F.2d 653, 655 (9th Cir. 1978). But if the evidence supports more than one rational interpretation, the ...


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