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John Rodriguez v. Michael J. Astrue

August 1, 2011

JOHN RODRIGUEZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

I.

PROCEEDINGS

Plaintiff filed this action on September 22, 2010, seeking review of the Commissioner's denial of his application for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income payments. The parties filed Consents to proceed before the undersigned Magistrate Judge on September 29, 2010, and October 1, 2010. Pursuant to the Court's Order, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation on May 9, 2011, that addresses their positions concerning the disputed issues in the case. The Court has taken the Joint Stipulation under submission without oral argument.

II.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was born on July 6, 1970. [Administrative Record ("AR") at 67, 130, 161.] He has a high school education, and past relevant work experience as a library assistant, medical records clerk, food service worker, and patient accounts worker. [AR at 26, 29, 63-64, 167, 171, 183, 223.]

Plaintiff filed his applications for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income payments on July 16, 2008, and July 25, 2008, respectively, alleging that he has been unable to work since May 1, 2007, due to paranoia, depression, bipolar disorder, and suicidal ideations. [AR at 67-70, 130-40, 161-72.] After his applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration, plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). [AR at 71-74, 77, 85-90.] A hearing was held on April 15, 2010, at which time plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified on his own behalf. [AR at 20-66.] A vocational expert, a medical expert, and plaintiff's friend also testified. [AR at 29-46, 57-65.] On May 21, 2010, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled. [AR at 6-19.] When the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review of the hearing decision on August 10, 2010, the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner. [AR at 1-3, 5.] This action followed.

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.

THE EVALUATION OF ...


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