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Iris A. Toland v. Michael J. Astrue

February 14, 2011

IRIS A. TOLAND, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Paul L. Abrams United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

I.

PROCEEDINGS

Plaintiff filed this action on May 10, 2010, seeking review of the Commissioner's denial of her application for Supplemental Security Income payments. The parties filed Consents to proceed before the undersigned Magistrate Judge on May 20, 2010, and May 21, 2010. Pursuant to the Court's Order, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation on January 3, 2011, that addresses their positions concerning the disputed issues in the case. The Court has taken the Joint Stipulation under submission without oral argument.

II.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was born on August 23, 1955. [Administrative Record ("AR") at 56, 58, 272.] She has a high school education [AR at 272, 489], and has past relevant work experience as a waitress and a maid. [AR at 65-72.]

On September 22, 2004, plaintiff filed her application for Supplemental Security Income payments, alleging that she has been disabled since March 1, 2002, due to an ovarian cyst, a prolapsed mitro valve, anxiety, panic attacks, bipolar disorder, and a hysterectomy with removal of a tumor. [AR at 18, 41, 48-49, 58, 92-99.] After her application was denied initially and on reconsideration, plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). [AR at 41-54.] A hearing was held on October 3, 2006, at which time plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified on her own behalf. [AR at 269-87.] On November 15, 2006, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled. [AR at 15-26.] The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review of the hearing decision. [AR at 5-10.] On August 20, 2007, plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court in Case No. EDCV 07-1004-PLA, challenging the ALJ's 2006 decision denying her benefits. [See AR at 311.] On October 20, 2008, judgment was entered remanding the case to defendant for further proceedings. [See AR at 310-25.] On remand, the ALJ held a hearing on January 8, 2010, at which time plaintiff appeared with counsel and again testified on her own behalf. [AR at 485-506.] On February 12, 2010, the ALJ again determined that plaintiff was not disabled. [AR at 288-97.] This action followed.

III.

STANDARD OF REVIEW Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court has authority to review the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. The decision will be disturbed only if it is not supported by substantial evidence or if it is based upon the application of improper legal standards. Moncada v. Chater, 60 F.3d 521, 523 (9th Cir. 1995); Drouin v. Sullivan, 966 F.2d 1255, 1257 (9th Cir. 1992).

In this context, the term "substantial evidence" means "more than a mere scintilla but less than a preponderance -- it is such relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support the conclusion." Moncada, 60 F.3d at 523; see also Drouin, 966 F.2d at 1257. When determining whether substantial evidence exists to support the Commissioner's decision, the Court examines the administrative record as a whole, considering adverse as well as supporting evidence. Drouin, 966 F.2d at 1257; Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989). Where the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the Court must defer to the decision of the Commissioner. Moncada, 60 F.3d at 523; Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039-40 (9th Cir. 1995); Drouin, 966 F.2d at 1258.

IV.

THE EVALUATION OF DISABILITY

Persons are "disabled" for purposes of receiving Social Security benefits if they are unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity owing to a physical or mental impairment that is expected to result in death or which has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at ...


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