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Price v. Astrue

October 4, 2010

JOHN PRICE, 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 THE COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY AND REMANDING FOR FURTHER PROCEEDINGS PROCEEDINGS

On October 26, 2009, John Price ("Plaintiff" or "Claimant") filed a complaint seeking review of the decision by the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying Plaintiff's application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") benefits. The Commissioner filed an Answer on May 6, 2010. On July 8, 2010, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS"). The matter is now ready for decision.

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

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was 23 years old when he filed his application for SSI benefits on October 26, 2006. (AR 17, 22.) He was found to have the medically determinable severe impairments of gunshot wound, fractured tibia, right leg pain, and obesity. (AR 19.) Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the application date. (Id.)

Plaintiff's claim was denied initially on March 23, 2007. (AR 17, 67-71.) He filed a timely request for hearing (AR 72), which was held before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Stuart M. Kaye on December 17, 2008, in Los Angeles, California.*fn1 (AR 42-62.) Claimant appeared and testified. (AR 45-50.) Medical expert Dr. Arthur Brovinder and vocational expert ("VE") Sandra Troste also appeared and testified. (AR 51-61.)

The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on January 9, 2009. (AR 17-24.) The ALJ determined that Plaintiff had several functional limitations, could not perform his past relevant work as a warehouse worker, and had the residual functional capacity ("RFC")*fn2 to perform less than the full range of sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(a). (AR 20-22.) Nonetheless, based on the testimony of the VE, the ALJ concluded that jobs exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform and, therefore, he is not disabled. (AR 23.)

Plaintiff filed a timely Request for Review of Hearing Decision. (AR 12.) The Appeals Council denied review on June 23, 2009. (AR 6-9.) Thereafter, Plaintiff commenced the present action.

DISPUTED ISSUE

As reflected in the Joint Stipulation, the sole disputed issue that Plaintiff raises as a ground for reversal is: Whether the ALJ properly considered Plaintiff's testimony.

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 of Soc. Sec. Admin., 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 ...


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