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Ronald Soto v. Michael J. Astrue

August 4, 2011

RONALD SOTO
PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Alicia G. Rosenberg United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Ronald Soto ("Soto") filed a Complaint on May 19, 2010. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties filed consents to proceed before the magistrate judge on June 3 and 21, 2010 (Dkt. Nos. 8, 9.) On January 19, 2011, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS") that addressed the disputed issues. The Court has taken the matter under submission without oral argument.

Having reviewed the entire file, the Court affirms the decision of the Commissioner. I.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On July 3, 2007, Soto filed applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income benefits. Administrative Record ("AR") 9. In both applications, Soto alleged a disability onset date of October 5, 2006. Id. The applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. AR 9, 47-51. Soto requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). AR 52. On April 21, 2009, an ALJ conducted a hearing at which Soto, a medical expert, and a vocational expert ("VE") testified. AR 19-36. On July 23, 2009, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 9-18. On April 17, 2010, the Appeals Council denied the request for review. AR 1-3. This action followed.

II.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews 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, "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. In 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. 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. III.

DISCUSSION

A. Disability

A person qualifies as disabled and is eligible for benefits, "only if his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy." Barnhart v. Thomas, 540 U.S. 20, 21-22, 124 S. Ct. 376, 157 L. Ed. 2d 333 (2003).

B. The ALJ's Findings

The ALJ found Soto has the following severe impairments: psychotic disorder substance induced and mood disorder substance induced. AR 12. If Soto stopped the substance abuse, he would have the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform the full range of medium work. AR 14. He could "perform simple repetitive tasks, in a non-public setting; and work with moderate limitation in ability to do the following: carry out detailed instructions, maintain attention and concentration for extended periods, interact appropriately with the general public, and set realistic goals or make plans independently of others." Id. The ALJ found ...


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