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Steven L. Grinolds v. Michael J. Astrue

May 10, 2011

STEVEN L. GRINOLDS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Jacqueline Chooljian United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

I. SUMMARY

On July 19, 2010, plaintiff Steven L. Grinolds ("plaintiff") filed a Complaint seeking review of the Commissioner of Social Security's denial of plaintiff's application for benefits. The parties have consented to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the parties' cross motions for summary judgment, respectively ("Plaintiff's Motion") and ("Defendant's Motion"). The *fn1 Court has taken both motions under submission without oral argument. See Fed.R. Civ. P. 78; L.R. 7-15; July 21, 2010 Case Management Order, ¶ 5.

Based on the record as a whole and the applicable law, the decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED. The findings of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") at step two of the sequential evaluation process are supported by substantial evidence and are free from material error.*fn2

II. BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

On December 5, 2007, plaintiff filed an application for Supplemental Security Income benefits. (Administrative Record ("AR") 23). Plaintiff asserted that he became disabled on November 11, 2003, due to schizophrenia, ADHD, heart trouble, pins in his right hip, and severe hyperactivity. (AR 129). The ALJ examined the medical record and heard testimony from plaintiff (who was represented by counsel) and a vocational expert on July 1, 2009. (AR 23, 36).

On December 17, 2009, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled since December 5, 2007. (AR 23, 31). Specifically, the ALJ found: (1) plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairment: osteoarthritis of post-surgical right hip (AR 25); (2) plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments (AR 27); (3) plaintiff retains the residual functional capacity to perform medium work, except plaintiff can only frequently bend, stoop, kneel, squat, and crawl (AR 28); (4) plaintiff could perform his past relevant work as a meter reader, cashier II, interpreter for the deaf, industrial cleaner, driver, and cashier checker (AR 31); and (5) plaintiff's allegations regarding his limitations appear exaggerated. (AR 28).

The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's application for review. (AR 1).

III. APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Sequential Evaluation Process

To qualify for disability benefits, a claimant must show that he is unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least twelve months. Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A)). The impairment must render the claimant incapable of performing the work he previously performed and incapable of performing any other substantial gainful employment that exists in the national economy. Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th Cir. 1999) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A)). In assessing whether a claimant is disabled, an ALJ is to follow a five-step sequential evaluation process:

(1) Is the claimant presently engaged in substantial gainful activity? If so, the claimant is not disabled. If not, proceed to step two.

(2) Is the claimant's alleged impairment sufficiently severe to limit his ability to work? If not, the claimant is not disabled. If so, proceed to step three.

(3) Does the claimant's impairment, or combination of impairments, meet or equal an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1? If so, the claimant is disabled. If not, proceed to step four.

(4) Does the claimant possess the residual functional capacity to perform his past relevant work? If so, the claimant is not disabled. If not, proceed to step five.

(5) Does the claimant's residual functional capacity, when considered with the claimant's age, education, and work experience, allow him to adjust to other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy? If so, the claimant is not disabled. If not, the claimant is disabled.

Stout v. Commissioner, Social Security Administration, 454 F.3d 1050, 1052 (9th Cir. 2006) (citing 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920).

The claimant has the burden of proof at steps one through four, and the Commissioner has the burden of proof at step five. Bustamante v. Massanari, 262 F.3d 949, 953-54 (9th Cir. 2001) (citing Tackett); see also Burch, 400 F.3d at 679 (claimant carries initial burden of proving disability).

B. Standard of Review

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. section 405(g), a court may set aside a denial of benefits only if it is not supported by substantial evidence or if it is based on legal error. Robbins v. Social Security Administration, 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006) (citing Flatten v. Secretary of Health & Human Services, 44 F.3d 1453, 1457 (9th Cir. 1995)). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (citations and quotations omitted). It is more ...


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