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Christopher Brooks v. Michael J. Astrue

March 30, 2011

CHRISTOPHER BROOKS
PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Christopher Brooks ("Brooks") filed a Complaint on September 25, 2009. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties filed Consents to proceed before Magistrate Judge Rosenberg on October 16 and November 3, 2009. (Dkt. Nos. 8, 9.) On June 3, 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 March 16, 2005, Brooks filed an application for disability insurance benefits. Administrative Record ("AR") 12. He alleged a disability onset date of February 18, 1990. Id. The application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Id. Brooks requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). AR 58. On April 9, 2007, the ALJ conducted a hearing, via videoconference, at which Brooks and a vocational expert testified. AR 615-24. On July 25, 2007, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 12-18. On August 2, 2007, Brooks requested that the Appeals Council review the decision denying benefits. AR 7-8. On July 16, 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).

In this context, "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. Where the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the Court must defer to the decision of the Commissioner. Moncada, 60 F.3d at 523.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Disability

A person qualifies as disabled and is eligible for 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 Brooks meets the insured status requirements through December 31, 1995. AR 14. Through the date last insured, Brooks had the medically determinable severe impairment of history of throat cancer. Id. He had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") "to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following non-exertional limitations: no prolonged or extensive speaking and no work around concentrations of dust or fumes." AR 15. The ALJ found that Brooks was not able to perform his past relevant work as a mechanic, but there were jobs that ...


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