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Glenda A. German v. Commissioner of Social

March 11, 2011

GLENDA A. GERMAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Craig M. Kellison United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, who is proceeding with retained counsel, brings this action for judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Pursuant to the written consent of all parties, this case is before the undersigned as the presiding judge for all purposes, including entry of final judgment. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Pending before the court are plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 14) and defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment (Doc. 19). For the reasons discussed below, the court will grant plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and remand this matter for further proceedings.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY*fn1

Plaintiff applied for social security benefits on July 30, 2007, alleging an onset of disability on November 15, 2006, due to physical impairments. (Certified administrative record ("CAR") 74-79, 84-92). Specifically, plaintiff claims disability based on impairments due to migraine headaches, left leg swelling due to mitrovalve prolapse, irritable bowel syndrome, and swollen colon. (CAR 85). Plaintiff's claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing, which was held on May 1, 2009, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Mark Ramsey. In a June 5, 2009 decision, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff is not disabled*fn2 based on the following findings:

1. The claimant met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2009.

2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since November 15, 2006, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq. and 416.971 et seq.).

3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: migraines, obesity, borderline to low average intellectual functioning, and history of controlled gastroesophageal reflux disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and ulcerative colitis (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).

4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.925 and 416.926).

5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b), except limited to simple, repetitive tasks consistent with unskilled work.

6. The claimant is capable of performing past relevant work as a assembler and pricer. This work does not require the performance of work-related activities precluded by the claimant's residual functional capacity (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).

7. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from November 15, 2006 through the date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(f) and 416.920(f)).

(CAR 8-17). After the Appeals Council declined review on September 3, 2009, this appeal followed.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The court reviews the Commissioner's final decision to determine whether it is:

(1) based on proper legal standards; and (2) supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. See Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1097 (9th Cir. 1999). "Substantial evidence" is more than a mere scintilla, but less than a preponderance. See Saelee v. Chater, 94 F.3d 520, 521 (9th Cir. 1996). It is "such evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 402 (1971). The record as a whole, including both the evidence that supports and detracts from the Commissioner's conclusion, must be considered and weighed. See Howard v. Heckler, 782 F.2d 1484, 1487 (9th Cir. 1986); Jones v. Heckler, 760 F.2d 993, 995 (9th Cir. 1985). The court may not affirm the Commissioner's decision simply by isolating a specific quantum of supporting evidence. See Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989). If substantial evidence supports the administrative findings, or if there is conflicting evidence supporting a particular finding, the finding of the Commissioner is conclusive. See Sprague v. Bowen, 812 F.2d 1226, 1229-30 (9th Cir. 1987). Therefore, where the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, one of which supports the Commissioner's decision, the decision must be affirmed, see Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002), and may be set aside only if an improper legal standard was applied in weighing the evidence, see Burkhart v. Bowen, 856 F.2d 1335, 1338 (9th Cir. 1988).

The claimant bears the burden of proof in the first four steps of the sequential evaluation process. Bowen, 482 U.S. at 146 n.5. The Commissioner bears the burden if the sequential evaluation process proceeds to step five. Id.

III. DISCUSSION

Plaintiff argues the ALJ erred in his assessment of her RFC by failing to address the findings of a vocational consultant, assessing her credibility, and evaluating the medical opinions. In addition, she argues the ALJ's evaluation of her past work was ...


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