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Parker v. Astrue

October 26, 2010

TRACY PARKER PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Carla M. Woehrle United States Magistrate Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

The parties have consented, under 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), to the jurisdiction of the undersigned magistrate judge. Plaintiff seeks review of the denial of disability benefits. The court finds that judgment should be granted in favor of defendant, affirming the Commissioner's decision.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Tracy Parker was born on November 29, 1962 and was forty-six years old at the time of her administrative hearing. [Administrative Record ("AR") 17.] She has an eleventh grade education and no past relevant work. [Id.] Plaintiff alleges disability on the basis of "[a] pinched vertebrae, shoulder, knee, [and] right leg problems." [AR 16.]

II. PROCEEDINGS IN THIS COURT

Plaintiff's complaint was lodged on December 3, 2009, and filed on December 11, 2009. On June 15, 2010, Defendant filed an Answer and Plaintiff's administrative record. On August 20, 2010, the parties filed their Joint Stipulation ("JS") identifying matters not in dispute, issues in dispute, the positions of the parties, and the relief sought by each party. This matter has been taken under submission without oral argument.

III. PRIOR ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS

Plaintiff applied for supplemental security income ("SSI") under Title XVI on May 5, 2008, alleging disability since September 5, 1995. [AR 8.] The claim was denied initially on June 19, 2008, and on July 7, 2008, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing. The hearing was held on June 30, 2009, before Administrative Law Judge David Agatstein. [Id.] Plaintiff was represented by counsel at the hearing. [Id.] Testimony was taken from Plaintiff, medical expert Arthur Brovender, M.D., and vocational expert Sandra Schneider. [Id.] The ALJ denied benefits in a decision filed on September 3, 2009. When the Appeals Council denied review on October 21, 2009, the ALJ's decision became the Commissioner's final decision.

IV. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), a district court may review the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. The Commissioner's (or ALJ's) findings and decision should be upheld if they are free of legal error and supported by substantial evidence. However, if the court determines that a finding is based on legal error or is not supported by substantial evidence in the record, the court may reject the finding and set aside the decision to deny benefits. See Aukland v. Massanari, 257 F.3d 1033, 1035 (9th Cir. 2001); Tonapetyan v. Halter, 242 F.3d 1144, 1147 (9th Cir. 2001); Osenbrock v. Apfel, 240 F.3d 1157, 1162 (9th Cir. 2001); Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1097 (9th Cir. 1999); Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 720 (9th Cir. 1998); Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996); Moncada v. Chater, 60 F.3d 521, 523 (9th Cir. 1995)(per curiam). "Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance." Reddick, 157 F.3d at 720. It is "relevant evidence which a reasonable person might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Id. To determine whether substantial evidence supports a finding, a court must review the administrative record as a whole, "weighing both the evidence that supports and the evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's conclusion." Id. "If the evidence can reasonably support either affirming or reversing," the reviewing court "may not substitute its judgment" for that of the Commissioner. Reddick, 157 F.3d at 720-721; see also Osenbrock, 240 F.3d at 1162.

V. DISCUSSION

A. THE FIVE-STEP EVALUATION

To be eligible for disability benefits a claimant must demonstrate a medically determinable impairment which prevents the claimant from engaging in substantial gainful activity and which is expected to result in death or to last for a continuous period of at least twelve months. Tackett, ...


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