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Theresa Pichler v. Michael J. Astrue

April 4, 2011

THERESA PICHLER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Paul L. Abrams United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

I.

PROCEEDINGS

Plaintiff filed this action on July 27, 2010, seeking review of the Commissioner's denial of her application for Supplemental Security Income payments. The parties filed Consents to proceed before the undersigned Magistrate Judge on August 24, 2010, and September 14, 2010. Pursuant to the Court's Order, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation on March 17, 2011, that addresses their positions concerning the disputed issue in the case. The Court has taken the Joint Stipulation under submission without oral argument.

II.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was born on June 20, 1953. [Administrative Record ("AR") at 111.] She has completed one year of college, has special training in graphic arts, and has past relevant work experience as a driving instructor, graphic artist, and salesperson. [AR at 143-44, 146, 164-74.]

On May 24, 2007, plaintiff filed her application for Supplemental Security Income payments, alleging that she has been disabled since October 1, 2001, due to, among other things, back pain and osteoporosis.*fn1 [AR at 111-14, 142.] After her application was denied initially, plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). [AR at 79-84.] A hearing was held on June 30, 2008, at which time plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified on her own behalf. A vocational expert also testified. [AR at 39-69.] On August 18, 2008, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled. [AR at 14-22.] When the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review of the hearing decision on April 28, 2010, the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner. [AR at 6-8.] This action followed.

III.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court has authority to review 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, the term "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; see also Drouin, 966 F.2d at 1257. When 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; Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989). 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; Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039-40 (9th Cir. 1995); Drouin, 966 F.2d at 1258.

IV.

THE EVALUATION OF ...


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