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Maria Castro De Jesus v. Michael J. Astrue

July 26, 2011

MARIA CASTRO DE JESUS,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Margaret A. Nagle United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff filed a Complaint on October 14, 2010, seeking review of the denial by the Social Security Commissioner (the "Commissioner") of plaintiff's application for supplemental security income ("SSI"). On October 28, 2010, the parties consented, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), to proceed before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge. The parties filed a Joint Stipulation on June 17, 2011, in which: plaintiff seeks an order reversing the Commissioner's decision and remanding this case for the payment of benefits or, alternatively, for further administrative proceedings; and defendant requests that the Commissioner's decision be affirmed or, alternatively, remanded for further administrative proceedings. The Court has taken the parties' Joint Stipulation under submission without oral argument.

SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS

On November 20, 2008, plaintiff filed an application for SSI.*fn1 (Administrative Record ("A.R.") 14, 16.) Plaintiff, who was born on January 28, 1958,*fn2 claims to have been disabled since May 17, 2003, due to depression, bipolar disorder, and arthritis in her shoulders and joints. (A.R. 14-19, 171, 199.) Plaintiff has no past relevant work experience. (A.R. 22.)

After the Commissioner denied plaintiff's claim initially and upon reconsideration (A.R. 14, 64-68, 74-78), plaintiff requested a hearing (A.R. 80-82). On March 9, 2010, plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, appeared and testified, with the help of a Spanish interpreter, at a hearing before Administrative Law Judge David M. Ganly (the "ALJ"). (A.R. 24-46.) Vocational expert Sandra M. Fioretti and medical experts Samuel Landau, M.D., a specialist in internal medicine, and David Glassmire, Ph.D., a psychologist, also testified.*fn3 (Id.) On May 19, 2010, the ALJ denied plaintiff's claim (A.R. 14-23), and the Appeals Council subsequently denied plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision (A.R. 1-5). That decision is now at issue in this action.

SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

The ALJ found that plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since November 20, 2008, her application date. (A.R. 16.) The ALJ determined that plaintiff has the following severe impairments: "mood disorder, not otherwise specified; and a psychotic disorder, not otherwise specified." (Id.) The ALJ also determined that plaintiff does not have any severe physical impairment. (A.R. 16-17.) The ALJ further determined that plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(d), 416.925, 416.926). (A.R. 17.)

After reviewing the record, the ALJ determined that plaintiff has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to: perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following non-exertional limitations: [plaintiff] is able to perform simple repetitive tasks and do work that is object oriented with no interaction with the general public and only non-intense interactions with co-workers and supervisors; [plaintiff] cannot do work that requires hypervigilance.

(A.R. 18.)

The ALJ found that plaintiff "is not able to communicate in English, and is considered in the same way as an individual who is illiterate in English." (A.R. 22.) The ALJ also found that "[t]ransferability of job skills is not an issue because [plaintiff] does not have past relevant work [experience]." (Id.)

Having considered plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, as well as the testimony of the vocational expert, the ALJ found that jobs exist in significant numbers in the national economy that plaintiff could perform, including those of kitchen helper, industrial cleaner, and bench assembler. (A.R. 22-23.) Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, since November 20, 2008, the date the application was filed. (A.R. 23.)

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the Commissioner's decision to determine whether it is free from legal error and supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence is "'such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'" Id. (citation omitted). The "evidence must be more than a mere scintilla but not necessarily a preponderance." Connett v. Barnhart, 340 F.3d 871, 873 (9th Cir. 2003). "While inferences from the record can constitute substantial evidence, only those 'reasonably drawn from the record' will suffice." Widmark v. Barnhart, 454 F.3d 1063, 1066 (9th Cir. 2006)(citation omitted).

Although this Court cannot substitute its discretion for that of the Commissioner, the Court nonetheless must review the record as a whole, "weighing both the evidence that supports and the evidence that detracts from the [Commissioner's] conclusion." Desrosiers v. Sec'y of Health and Hum. Servs., 846 F.2d 573, 576 (9th Cir. 1988); see also Jones v. Heckler, 760 F.2d 993, 995 (9th Cir. 1985). "The ALJ is responsible for determining credibility, resolving ...


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