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Lilia Aguilar v. Michael J. Astrue

March 7, 2011

LILIA AGUILAR, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Alicia G. Rosenberg United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Lilia Aguilar filed this action on October 6, 2009. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before Magistrate Judge Rosenberg on October 16 and November 18, 2009. (Dkt. Nos. 8, 9.) On June 16, 2010, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS") that addressed the disputed issues. The Court has taken the matter under submission without oral argument.

Having reviewed the entire file, the Court remands this matter to the Commissioner for proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On January 17, 2007, Aguilar filed an application for Title XVI disability benefits. Administrative Record ("AR") 16. She alleged a disability onset date of January 17, 2006. AR 16, 235. The application was denied initially. AR 16. Aguilar requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). Id. On November 29, 2007, the ALJ conducted a hearing at which Aguilar, a lay witness, and a vocational expert testified. AR 16, 70-100. On February 4, 2008, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 52-64. On March 3, 2008, Aguilar requested that the Appeals Council review the decision denying benefits. AR 192. On August 21, 2008, the Appeals Council remanded the case. AR 200-02. On December 9, 2008, the ALJ conducted another hearing at which Aguilar gave further testimony.*fn1 AR 103-31. A vocational expert also testified. Id. On May 27, 2009, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 10-26. On June 18, 2009, Aguilar requested that the Appeals Council review the decision denying benefits. AR 7. On September 17, 2009, the Appeals Council denied the request for review. AR 1-3. This action followed.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews 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) (per curiam); Drouin v. Sullivan, 966 F.2d 1255, 1257 (9th Cir. 1992).

"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. In 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. When the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the Court must defer to the Commissioner's decision. Moncada, 60 F.3d at 523.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Disability

A person qualifies as disabled, and thereby eligible for such benefits, "only if his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy." Barnhart v. Thomas, 540 U.S. 20, 21-22, 124 S. Ct. 376, 157 L. Ed. 2d 333 (2003) (citation omitted).

B. The ALJ's Findings

The ALJ found that Aguilar has the severe impairments of "[m]ood disorder, NOS and Borderline Intellectual Functioning." AR 19. Aguilar has the residual functional capacity to perform medium work with the following limitations: "[N]o detailed or complex tasks"; "moderate limitations in concentration and attention"; and "she is illiterate and unable to communicate in English." AR 23.

The ALJ found that Aguilar can perform her past relevant work as a babysitter and that she can perform other work in the local and national economies, including as an entry level ...


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