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Crystal Howard v. Michael J. Astrue

January 28, 2011

CRYSTAL HOWARD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Oswald Parada United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

The Court now rules as follows with respect to the three disputed issues *fn1 listed in the Joint Stipulation ("JS"). *fn2

I.

DISPUTED ISSUES As reflected in the Joint Stipulation, the disputed issues which Plaintiff is raising as the grounds for reversal and/or remand are as follows:

1. Whether the ALJ properly considered the opinions of Plaintiff's worker's compensation examiner;

2. Whether the ALJ properly considered the treating psychiatrist's opinions; and

3. Whether the ALJ properly developed the record. (JS at 2-3.)

II.

STANDARD OF REVIEW Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the Commissioner's decision to determine whether the Commissioner'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. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S. Ct. 1420, 28 L. Ed. 2d 842 (1971); Desrosiers v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 846 F.2d 573, 575-76 (9th Cir. 1988). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401 (citation omitted). The Court must review the record as a whole and consider adverse as well as supporting evidence. Green v. Heckler, 803 F.2d 528, 529-30 (9th Cir. 1986). Where evidence is susceptible of more than one rational interpretation, the Commissioner's decision must be upheld. Gallant v. Heckler, 753 F.2d 1450, 1452 (9th Cir. 1984).

III.

DISCUSSION

A. The ALJ's Findings.

The ALJ found that Plaintiff has the severe impairments of obesity, degenerative disc disease, rotator cuff tendinitis, and degenerative arthritis. (Administrative Record ("AR") at 20.) He also found that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to perform medium work, with the following limitations: Plaintiff is able to lift and/or carry fifty pounds occasionally and twenty-five pounds frequently; she can sit, stand, and/or walk for six hours in an eight-hour work day; she could frequently climb ladders and scaffolds; she could frequently stoop, crouch, or crawl; she would have mild limitations in understanding and remembering complex instructions and details; she would have mild limitations interacting appropriately with supervisors, co-workers, and the public; and she would have mild limitations responding appropriately to usual work situations and to changes in work settings. (Id. at 22.)

Relying on the testimony of a vocational expert ("VE"), the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was capable of performing her past relevant work as a certified medical assistant, a forklift operator, a ...


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