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Armando Padilla v. Michael J. Astrue

January 10, 2011

ARMANDO PADILLA, 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 AND REMANDING FOR FURTHER PROCEEDINGS

On November 20, 2009, Armando Padilla ("Plaintiff" or "Claimant") filed a Complaint seeking review of the decision by the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner") denying Plaintiff's application for Disability Insurance Benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act. On May 27, 2010, the Commissioner filed an Answer to the Complaint. On July 30, 2010, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS") setting forth their positions and the issues in dispute.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), both parties consented to proceed before the undersigned 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 Opinion and Order.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was born on June 9, 1962, and was 39 years old on his alleged disability onset date of June 26, 2001. (AR 74.) Plaintiff filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits on October 27, 2006. (AR 13, 74-78.) Plaintiff claims he is disabled due to back problems and depression. (AR 87.) Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since June 26, 2001. (AR 15, 87-88.)

Plaintiff's claim was denied initially on March 13, 2007 (AR 60-65), and on reconsideration on July 20, 2007. (AR 67-72.) Plaintiff filed a timely request for hearing on August 13, 2007. (AR 73.) Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified at a hearing held on June 11, 2008, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Robert A. Evans. (AR 42-54.) The ALJ issued a decision denying benefits on August 12, 2008. (AR 13-22.) On September 9, 2008, Plaintiff filed a timely request for review of the ALJ's decision. (AR 7.) The Appeals Council denied review on September 20, 2009. (AR 1-3.) Plaintiff then commenced the present action.

DISPUTED ISSUES

As reflected in the Joint Stipulation, there are two disputed issues:

1. Whether the ALJ's residual functional capacity assessment is supported by substantial evidence; and

2. Whether the ALJ properly evaluated Plaintiff's subjective symptom testimony. (JS at 3.)

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 quotation marks 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 ...


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