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Maria Perez v. Michael J. Astrue

January 3, 2011

MARIA PEREZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, ORDER COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gregory G. Hollows U.S. Magistrate Judge

Plaintiff seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying her applications for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") and Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") under Titles XVI and II, respectively, of the Social Security Act ("Act"). For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED, the Commissioner's Cross Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED, and the Clerk is directed to enter judgment for the Commissioner.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, born June 20, 1951, applied on May 16, 2006 for disability benefits. (Tr. at 53, 58.) Plaintiff alleged she was unable to work due to osteoarthritis and "sprains and strains - all types." (Id.) In a decision dated May 28, 2008, ALJ William C. Thompson, Jr. determined that plaintiff was not disabled. (Id. at 8-18.) The ALJ made the following findings:*fn1

1. The claimant met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act only through December 31, 2006.

2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 1, 2002, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1520(b), 404.1571 et seq., 416.920(b) and 416.971 et seq.).

3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: Arthritis in hands, and depression (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).

4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).

5. After careful consideration of the entire record, I find that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) and 416.967(c). She is able to lift 50 pounds occasionally, 25 pounds frequently, and is able to stand and walk in combination for six hours out of an eight-hour workday. She is able to sit without limitation when not required to stand or walk. She is limited to work that requires frequent but not constant bilateral hand usage.

6. The claimant is capable of performing past relevant work as a packing machine operator and industrial cleaner. This work does not require the performance of work-related activities precluded by the claimant's residual functional capacity (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).

7. The claimant is unable to perform past relevant work as a sorter (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).

8. The claimant was born on June 20, 1951 and was 50 years old, which is defined as an individual "closely approaching advanced age," on the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 404.1563 and 416.963).*fn2

9. The claimant is not able to communicate in English, and is considered in the same way as an individual who is illiterate in English.

10. Transferability of job skills is not an issue in this case because the claimant's past relevant work is unskilled (20 CFR 404.1568 and 416.968).

11. Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform, even if she were unable to perform her past work (20 CFR 404.1560(c), 404.1566, 416.960(c), and 416.966).

12. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from January 1, 2002 through the date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(g) and 416.920(g)).

(Tr. at 10-18.)

ISSUES PRESENTED

Plaintiff has raised the following issues: A. Whether the ALJ Failed to Develop the Record Regarding Plaintiff's Mental Impairment and Order an Updated Psychiatric Consultative Exam; B. Whether the ALJ Failed to Accurately Characterize the Medical Evidence and Credit the Opinions of Treating Mental Health Specialists Without a Legitimate Reason; and C. Whether the ALJ Failed to Credit Plaintiff's Testimony and Third Party Statements Regarding Plaintiff's Functional Limitations.

LEGAL STANDARDS

The court reviews the Commissioner's decision to determine whether (1) it is based on proper legal standards pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), and (2) substantial evidence in the record as a whole supports it. Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1097 (9th Cir.1999). Substantial evidence is more than a mere scintilla, but less than a preponderance. Connett v. Barnhart, 340 F.3d 871, 873 (9th Cir. 2003) (citation omitted). It means "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007), quoting Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005). "The ALJ is responsible for determining credibility, resolving conflicts in medical testimony, and resolving ambiguities." Edlund v. Massanari, 253 F.3d 1152, 1156 (9th Cir. 2001) ...


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