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Maria Rodriguez v. Michael J. Astrue

May 3, 2011

MARIA RODRIGUEZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Oswald Parada United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION; ORDER

The Court now rules as follows with respect to the disputed issues listed in*fn1the Joint Stipulation ("JS").*fn2

I. DISPUTED ISSUES

As reflected in the Joint Stipulation, the disputed issues that Plaintiff raises as the grounds for reversal and/or remand are as follows:

(1) Whether the administrative law judge ("ALJ"), F. Keith Varni, should have obtained vocational expert testimony in light of the presence of non-exertional limitations; and

(2) Whether the ALJ made proper credibility findings and properly considered Plaintiff's subjective symptoms.

(JS at 2.)

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the Commissioner's decision to determine whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence and whether the proper legal standards were applied. DeLorme v. Sullivan, 924 F.2d 841, 846 (9th Cir. 1991). Substantial evidence means "more than a mere scintilla" but less than a preponderance. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S. Ct. 1420, 28 L. Ed. 2d 842 (1971); Desrosiers v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 846 F.2d 573, 575-76 (9th Cir. 1988). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401 (citation omitted). The Court must review the record as a whole and consider adverse as well as supporting evidence. Green v. Heckler, 803 F.2d 528, 529-30 (9th Cir. 1986). Where evidence is susceptible of more than one rational interpretation, the Commissioner's decision must be upheld. Gallant v. Heckler, 753 F.2d 1450, 1452 (9th Cir. 1984).

III. DISCUSSION

A. The ALJ's Findings.

The ALJ found that Plaintiff has a severe impairment of the musculoskeletal system. (Administrative Record ("AR") at 11.) The ALJ also found that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform a full range of medium work. (Id. at 13.) Relying on Rule 203.21 of the Medical-Vocational Guidelines, the ALJ concluded that there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform. (Id. at 13-14.) The ALJ noted that even if Plaintiff were limited to light work, she would not be disabled under Rule 202.13 of the Medical-Vocational Guidelines. (Id. at 14.)

B. The ALJ's Credibility Determination and Consideration of Plaintiff's Subjective Symptoms.

Plaintiff contends that the ALJ erred in finding that her reported symptoms and limitations were not credible and failing to provide sufficient reasons for rejecting her subjective complaints of impairment. (JS at 8-15.) Specifically, at the administrative hearing, Plaintiff testified about the nature and extent of her condition. She testified that: she suffers from lower back pain (AR at 18-19); her back pain runs down to her legs and increases during cold temperatures, if she sits too long, walks too far, does "any kind of bending," or stands for long periods of time (id. at 19, 27, 32); she can sit for only thirty to forty-five minutes at a time and stand for only one hour at a time, can walk "probably a block or less," can lift only about ten pounds, and has to lie down for four to six hours during the day (id. at 18, 22-23, 26, 29-31); she wears a back ...


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