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Jaime Reynoso v. Michael J. Astrue

June 27, 2011

JAIME REYNOSO, 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 REVERSING DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY PROCEEDINGS

On June 25, 2010, Jaime Reynoso ("Plaintiff" or "Claimant") filed a Complaint seeking review of the decision by the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner") denying Plaintiff's Social Security disability and disability insurance benefits. On February 3, 2011, the Commissioner filed an Answer to the Complaint. On June 9, 2011, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS") setting forth their positions and the issues in dispute.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), both parties consented to proceed before the undersigned Magistrate Judge. After reviewing the pleadings, transcripts, and administrative record ("AR"), the Court concludes that the Commissioner's decision shouldbe reversed and remanded for further proceedings in accordance with this Memorandum Opinion and Order and with law.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is a 38 year old male who filed an application for disability and disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income benefits on April 6, 2006, alleging disability beginning December 3, 2003. (AR 14, 42.) Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since that date. (AR 16.)

Plaintiff's claim was denied initially and on reconsideration. (AR 14.) Plaintiff filed a timely request for a hearing, which was held on February 20, 2008, in Orange, California, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Charles E. Stevenson. (AR 22.) Plaintiff appeared and testified at the hearing. (AR 14.) Medical expert Joseph Jensen, M.D., and vocational expert ("VE") David Rinehart also testified. (AR 14.) Plaintiff was represented by counsel. (AR 14.)

The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on April 25, 2008. (AR 14-22.) The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on April 22, 2010. (AR 1-3.)

DISPUTED ISSUES

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

1. Whether the ALJ properly considered the presence of a closed period of disability.

2. Whether the ALJ properly considered the opinions of the neutral examining physician.

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 quotation marks 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 of the Soc. Sec. Admin., 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).

THE 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 Commissioner has established a five-step ...


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