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Judith Tapia v. Michael J. Astrue

March 8, 2011

JUDITH TAPIA, 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

Judith Tapia filed this action on August 18, 2009. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before Magistrate Judge Rosenberg on September 1 and 3, 2009. (Dkt. Nos. 8, 9.) On April 13, 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 affirms the decision of the Commissioner.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On May 21, 2007, Tapia filed an application for disability insurance benefits. Administrative Record ("AR") 13. On May 30, 2007, Tapia filed an application for supplemental security income benefits. Id. In both applications, Tapia alleged a disability onset date of October 1, 2001. Id. The applications were denied initially. AR 66-75. Tapia requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). AR 76. On January 21, 2009, the ALJ conducted a hearing at which Tapia and a vocational expert testified. AR 25-63. On February 11, 2009, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 7-22. On April 13, 2009, Tapia requested that the Appeals Council review the decision denying benefits. AR 5-6. On June 24, 2009, the Appeals Council denied the request for review. AR 1-4. 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); 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).

B. The ALJ's Findings

The ALJ found that Tapia meets the insured status requirements through ...


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