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Frank Docks v. Michael J. Astrue

March 28, 2011

FRANK DOCKS, 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

Frank Docks ("Docks") filed this action on July 21, 2009. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before Magistrate Judge Rosenberg on December 13 and December 23, 2010. (Dkt. Nos. 23, 24.) On January 29, 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 September 28, 2005, Docks filed applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income benefits. Administrative Record ("AR") 94-102. Both applications alleged an onset date of May 1, 2002. Id. The applications were denied initially, and upon reconsideration. AR 51-55, 57-61, 79-83. Docks requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). AR 62. On November 26, 2007, the ALJ conducted a hearing at which Docks, a vocational expert and a medical expert testified. AR 329-53. On January 22, 2008, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 36-45. On January 25, 2008, Docks requested that the Appeals Council review the decision denying benefits. AR 71. On May 19, 2008, the Appeals Council remanded the case. AR 72-75. Accordingly, on September 18, 2008, the ALJ conducted a hearing at which Docks, a vocational expert, and a medical expert gave further testimony. AR 356-78. On December 11, 2008, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 9-18. On December 17, 2008, Docks requested that the Appeals Council review the decision denying benefits. AR 7. On May 14, 2009, the Appeals Council denied the request for review. AR 4-6. 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 the period in question for purposes of disability insurance benefits is August 26, 2005 through December 31, 2005, the date last insured. AR 12, 14. For purposes of supplemental security income, the time frame begins on August 26, 2005. AR 12.

Docks had the severe impairment of major depressive disorder. AR 14. Docks had "the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following non-exertional limitations: he can perform simple, repetitive tasks in a non-public setting, with no operating of hazardous machinery and no responsibility for safety operations." AR 15. ...


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