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Richard E. Holmes v. Michael J. Astrue

July 15, 2011

RICHARD E. HOLMES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Paul L. Abramsunited States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

I.

PROCEEDINGS

Plaintiff filed this action on August 17, 2010, seeking review of the Commissioner's denial of his applications for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income payments. The parties filed Consents to proceed before the undersigned Magistrate Judge on September 8, 2010, and October 5, 2010. Pursuant to the Court's order, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation on June 3, 2011, that addresses their positions concerning the disputed issue in the case. The Court has taken the Joint Stipulation under submission without oral argument.

II.

BACKGROUND Plaintiff was born on December 19, 1949. [Administrative Record ("AR") at 141, 180.] He has a high school education and has past work experience as a plumber. [AR at 47-48, 186-92, 196-98, 212-19.]

Plaintiff protectively filed his applications for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income payments on May 5, 2009, alleging that he had been unable to work since January 15, 1999,*fn1 due to, among other things, back pain and depression. [AR at 14, 65-66, 139-48, 180-83, 193-204, 230-35.] After his applications were denied initially and on reconsideration, plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). [AR at 69-73, 75-80,

85.] A hearing was held on January 12, 2010, at which plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified on his own behalf. Two medical experts, a vocational expert, and plaintiff's girlfriend also testified. [AR at 26-64.] On February 5, 2010, the ALJ issued a partially favorable decision, finding plaintiff not disabled as of his date last insured,*fn2 but finding him disabled as of September 5, 2006. [AR at 9-22.] On June 14, 2010, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review of the hearing decision. [AR at 3-5.] Plaintiff then filed this action.

III.

STANDARD OF REVIEW Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court has authority to review 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).

In this context, the term "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; see also Drouin, 966 F.2d at 1257. When 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; Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989). Where the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the Court must defer to the decision of the Commissioner. Moncada, 60 F.3d at 523; Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039-40 (9th Cir. 1995); Drouin, 966 F.2d at 1258.

IV.

EVALUATION OF DISABILITY

Persons are "disabled" for purposes of receiving Social Security benefits if they are unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity owing to a physical or mental impairment that is expected to result in death or which has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at ...


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