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Belcher-George v. Astrue

October 25, 2010

DEBORAH BELCHER-GEORGE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Oswald Parada United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION; ORDER

The Court now rules as follows with respect to the disputed issues Listed*fn1 in the Joint Stipulation ("JS").*fn2

I. DISPUTED ISSUES

As reflected in the Joint Stipulation, the disputed issues which Plaintiff raises as the grounds for reversal and/or remand are as follows:

1. Whether the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") properly considered the opinion of the treating physician; and

2. Whether the ALJ posed a complete hypothetical to the vocational expert ("VE") and properly considered side effects of Plaintiff's medications.

(JS at 2, 19.)

II. 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. Sec'y 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 (citation omitted). The 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 of more than one rational interpretation, the Commissioner's decision must be upheld. Gallant v. Heckler, 753 F.2d 1450, 1452 (9th Cir. 1984).

III. DISCUSSION

A. The ALJ's Findings

The ALJ found that Plaintiff has the severe impairment of degenerative disc disease. (Administrative Record ("AR") at 12.) He concluded that Plaintiff's diagnosis for hepatitis C was not a severe impairment. (Id.) He also found that her alleged mental impairments, depression and anxiety, "do not cause more than minimal limitation" in her ability to perform basic mental work activities and, therefore, were non-severe. (Id.)

The ALJ further found that Plaintiff had the RFC to perform light work with the following limitations: lift/carry twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently; stand/walk about six hours in an eight hour workday; and sit about six hours in an eight hour workday with a sit/stand option. (Id. at 16.) The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff would not be able to perform her past relevant work as a waitress. (Id. at 18.)

Relying on the testimony of the VE to determine the extent to which Plaintiff's limitations eroded the occupational base of unskilled work at all exertional levels, the ALJ asked the VE whether jobs exist in the national economy for an individual with Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC. (Id. at 40-41.) Based on the testimony of the VE, the ALJ determined Plaintiff could perform the requirements of such light work ...


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