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Kim L. Burris v. Michael J. Astrue

January 7, 2011

KIM L. BURRIS, 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 COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY AND REMANDING FOR FURTHER PROCEEDINGS

PROCEEDINGS

On November 16, 2009, Kim L. Burris ("Plaintiff" or "Claimant" or "Burris") filed a complaint seeking review of the decision by the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying Plaintiff's Title II application for a period of Social Security disability and disability insurance benefits. The Commissioner filed an Answer on June 3, 2010. On July 27, 2010, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS").

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

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is a 50 year old female who was determined to have the medically determinable severe impairment of schizoaffective disorder. (AR 29.) Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since December 1, 2005, the alleged onset date. (AR 29.)

Plaintiff's claim was denied initially on July 30, 2007, and on reconsideration on October 10, 2007. (AR 27.) Claimant filed a timely request for hearing, which was held on December 9, 2008, in Orange, California, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Charles Stevenson. (AR 27.) Claimant appeared and testified and was represented by counsel. (AR 27.) Also appearing and testifying were Willy Garrett, Ms. Burris' friend, and Susan Allison, a vocational expert. (AR 27.)

On June 1, 2009, ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. (AR 27-35.) The Appeals Council denied Ms. Burris' request for review on September 25, 2009. (AR 1-4.)

DISPUTED ISSUES

As reflected in the Joint Stipulation, the only disputed issue that Plaintiff raises as a ground for reversal is as follows:

1. Whether the ALJ properly considered the examining physician's opinion.

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 free of legal error. Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996); see also DeLorme v. Sullivan, 924 F.2d 841, 846 (9th Cir. 1991) (whether ALJ's disability determination is supported by substantial evidence and based on the proper legal standards).

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 ...


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