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Joseph Callahan v. Michael J. Astrue

May 27, 2011

JOSEPH CALLAHAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John E. Mcdermott United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER AFFIRMING DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY PROCEEDINGS

On September 17, 2010, Joseph Callahan ("Plaintiff" or "Claimant" or "Callahan") filed a complaint seeking review of the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying Plaintiff's applications for Social Security Disability Insurance ("SSDI") benefits and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") benefits. The Commissioner filed an Answer on March 16, 2011. On May 17, 2011, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS"). The matter is now ready for decision.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), both parties consented to proceed before this Magistrate Judge. After reviewing the pleadings, transcripts, and administrative record ("AR"), the Court concludes that the Commissioner's decision should be affirmed and this case dismissed with prejudice.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is a 48 year old male who alleges disability beginning September 1, 2001, due to asthma, fatigue, fibromyalgia, herniated disc in lower back, neck problems, arthritis, and depression. (AR 14, JS 2.)

Plaintiff earlier filed an application for Disability Insurance benefits on October 26, 1999, alleging disability on March 12, 1996, due to asthma, herniated discs, and depression. (AR 274-75.) Following a hearing on June 28, 2001, Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Leo McCormick issued an unfavorable decision on August 15, 2001. (AR 274-79.)

Plaintiff filed a new Request for Hearing on September 15, 2004. (AR 283.) Following a hearing on January 18, 2006, ALJ Lowell Fortune found that there was no new and material evidence that rebuts the conclusions established in the August 15, 2001, ALJ decision. (AR 283-284.) Consequently, ALJ Fortune issued an unfavorable decision on August 10, 2006. (AR 283-88.)

On November 7, 2007, the Appeals Council vacated the ALJ decision and remanded the case to the ALJ with instructions to discuss and explain the weight given to certain medical, lay, and vocational testimony. (AR 379-85.) On July 21, 2008, ALJ Fortune convened a hearing in San Bernardino, California. (AR 14.) The Claimant appeared and testified. (AR 14.) Vocational expert ("VE") Corinne J. Porter, also appeared and testified at the hearing. (AR 14.) Claimant was represented by counsel. (AR 16.) The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on February 5, 2010 (AR 14-28), and on July 30, 2010, the Appeals Council denied review. (AR 6-8.)

DISPUTED ISSUES

As reflected in the Joint Stipulation, Plaintiff raises the following disputed issues as grounds for reversal and remand:

1. Whether the ALJ properly considered the treating psychiatrist's opinion.

2. Whether the ALJ properly considered the opinion of Dr. Lanum, Plaintiff's treating doctor.

3. Whether the ALJ's residual functional capacity assessment, which provides that Plaintiff is able to sit six hours in an eight hour day, is supported by substantial evidence.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the ALJ's decision to determine whether the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence and free of legal error. Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996); see also DeLorme v. Sullivan, 924 F.2d 841, 846 (9th Cir. 1991) (ALJ's disability determination must be supported by substantial evidence and based on the proper legal standards).

Substantial evidence means "'more than a mere scintilla' . . . but less than a preponderance." Saelee v. Chater, 94 F.3d 520, 521-22 (9th Cir. 1996) (quoting Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401 (internal quotations and citation omitted).

This Court must review the record as a whole and consider adverse as well as supporting evidence. Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006). Where evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the ALJ's decision must be upheld. Morgan v. Comm'r, 169 F.3d 595, 599 (9th Cir. 1999). "However, a reviewing court must consider the entire record as a whole and may not affirm simply by isolating a 'specific quantum of supporting evidence.'" Robbins, 466 F.3d at 882 (quoting Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989)); see also Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007).

SEQUENTIAL EVALUATION

The Social Security Act defines disability as the "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or . . . can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. ยงยง 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). The ...


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