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Gary E. Fuller v. Michael J. Astrue

December 6, 2010

GARY E. FULLER, 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 AFFIRMING DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY

PROCEEDINGS

On May 27, 2009, Gary E. Fuller ("Plaintiff" or "Claimant") filed a complaint seeking review of the decision by the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying Plaintiff's application for Social Security Disability Insurance ("SSDI") benefits. The Commissioner filed an Answer on October 21, 2009. On January 6, 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 affirmed and the case dismissed with prejudice.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is a 52 year old male who was found to have the medically determinable severe impairments of diabetes mellitus with peripheral neuropathy, HIV infection, and lumbar spine degenerative disc disease. (AR 24.) Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 28, 2007, the alleged onset date. (AR 20.)

Plaintiff's claim for SSDI benefits was denied initially on October 5, 2007. (AR 18.) Plaintiff filed a written request for hearing (AR 18), which was held before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Sally C. Reason on August 11, 2008, in Los Angeles, California. (AR 34-50.) Claimant appeared and testified. (AR 18.) Vocational expert Ronald K. Hatakeyama also appeared and testified. (AR 18.)

The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on August 28, 2008. (AR 18-29.) Plaintiff filed a Request for Review of Hearing Decision (AR 13), which the Appeals Council denied on March 31, 2009. (AR 10-12.)

DISPUTED ISSUES

As reflected in the Joint Stipulation, the disputed issues that Plaintiff raises as grounds for reversal are as follows:

1. Whether the ALJ properly determined that Plaintiff's mental impairment was not severe.

2. Whether the ALJ properly considered the treating psychiatrist's opinion. 3. Whether the ALJ properly complied with SSR 96-7p regarding the type, dosage, effectiveness and side effects of medication.

4. Whether the ALJ posed a complete hypothetical question to the vocational expert. 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, 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 supporting evidence.'" Robbins, 466 F.3d at 882 (quoting Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989)); see also Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007).

SEQUENTIAL EVALUATION

The Social Security Act defines disability as the "inability 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 . . . can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. ยงยง 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). The ...


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