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Beverly Million v. Michael J. Astrue

March 29, 2011

BEVERLY MILLION, 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

Beverly Million filed this action on August 13, 2009. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before Magistrate Judge Rosenberg on August 27 and September 18, 2009. (Dkt. Nos. 8, 9.) On April 15, 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 October 23, 2003, Million filed an application for Title XVI disability benefits. Administrative Record ("AR") 9. The application was denied initially, on reconsideration, and by an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") in a decision dated October 12, 2006. Id. On November 9, 2006, Million filed an application for supplemental security income benefits, alleging a disability onset date of October 9, 2003. AR 100. The application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Id. Million requested a hearing before an ALJ. AR 123-26. On June 13, 2008, the ALJ conducted a hearing at which Million, two medical experts and a vocational expert testified. AR 29-61. On July 17, 2008, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 100-07. On August 6, 2008, Million requested that the Appeals Council review the decision denying benefits. AR 163. On August 22, 2008, the Appeals Council remanded the case. AR 166. On January 22, 2009, the ALJ conducted a hearing at which Million gave further testimony. AR 62-81. On March 31, 2009, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 6-20. On June 3, 2009, the Appeals Council denied Million's 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); 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 Million had the severe impairments of right eye blindness, chronic anemia, and post-traumatic stress disorder. AR 11. Million had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work "except she can occasionally climb stairs and ramps but cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. She is able to frequently bend and stoop, and she is able to occasionally crouch and kneel. [She] is precluded from balancing or walking on uneven terrain and she should avoid working at unprotected heights, around dangerous machinery, and near pools of water. [She] cannot perform work that requires binocular vision or exact vision for small objects. Mentally, [she] can perform moderately detailed, moderately complex, non-public work that requires only occasional (up to 1/3 of the day) non-intense contact with supervisors and co-workers." AR 13.

Million could not perform her past relevant work, but "there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that [she] can perform," such as garment ...


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