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Larry Larson v. Michael J. Astrue

May 5, 2011

LARRY LARSON, 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

Larry Larson filed this action on February 3, 2010. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before the magistrate judge on March 4, 2010. (Dkt. Nos. 8, 9.) On October 7, 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 November 16, 2005, Larson filed an application for disability insurance benefits. Administrative Record ("AR") 8. On December 13, 2005, Larson filed an application for supplemental security income benefits. Id. In both applications, Larson alleged a disability onset date of December 3, 2004. Id. The applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration. AR 42-46, 48-52. Larson requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). AR 18. On July 2, 2008, the ALJ conducted a hearing at which Larson and a vocational expert ("VE") testified. AR 19-37. On August 1, 2008, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 5-17. On December 11, 2009, the Appeals Council denied the 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 Larson meets the insured status requirements through December 31, 2009. AR 10.

Larson has the severe impairments of cervical and lumbar discogenic disease. Id. Larson has the residual functional capacity to perform light work, except he "has occasional postural restrictions and cannot work with ladders, ropes or scaffolds," "cannot tolerate concentrated exposure to cold or vibrations," and "is limited to occasional overhead reaching with his left nondominant arm." AR 11. The ALJ found Larson is unable to perform his past relevant work as a welder, but can perform ...


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