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William Ingham v. Michael J. Astrue

August 5, 2011

WILLIAM INGHAM, 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 AFFIRMING DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY PROCEEDINGS

On October 5, 2010, William Ingham ("Plaintiff" or "Claimant" or "Ingham") filed a complaint seeking review of the decision by the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner") denying Plaintiff's application for Supplemental Social Security Income ("SSI") benefits. The Commissioner filed an Answer to the Complaint on April 7, 2011. On July 7, 2011, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS").

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 affirmed and the case dismissed with prejudice.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Ingham is a 26 year old male who filed an application for SSI benefits on April 28, 2008, alleging disability beginning November 28, 2006, due to depression, anger management, and seizures. (AR 9-129.) Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since that date. (AR 11.)

Plaintiff's claim was denied initially and on reconsideration. (AR 9.) Plaintiff filed a timely request for a hearing, which was held on February 1, 2010, in San Bernardino, California, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Sharilyn Hopson. (AR 9-18.) Plaintiff appeared and testified. (AR 9.) Plaintiff's mother Linda Hoback appeared and testified. (AR 9.) Vocational expert ("VE") David A. Rinehart also appeared at the hearing. (AR 9.) Plaintiff was represented by counsel. (AR 9.)

The ALJ issued a decision denying benefits on March 4, 2010. (AR 9-18.) The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on August 14, 2010. (AR 1-3.)

DISPUTED ISSUES

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

1. Whether the ALJ properly considered the treating psychiatrist's opinion.

2. Whether the ALJ provided a complete and proper assessment of Plaintiff's residual functional capacity.

3. Whether the ALJ posed a complete hypothetical question to the vocational expert.

4. Whether the ALJ properly considered and discredited the lay witness's testimony. 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. §§ 423(d) (1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). The Commissioner has established a five-step sequential process to determine whether a claimant is disabled.

20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920.

The first step is to determine whether the claimant is presently engaging in substantial

gainful activity. Parra v. Astrue, 481 F.3d 742, 746 (9th Cir. 2007). If the claimant is engaging in substantial gainful activity, disability benefits will be denied. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987). Second, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has a severe impairment or combination of impairments. Parra, 481 F.3d at 746. An impairment is not severe if it does not significantly limit the claimant's ability to work. Smolen, 80 F.3d 1273, 1290 (9th Cir. 1996). Third, the ALJ must determine whether the impairment is listed, or equivalent to an impairment listed, in 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, Appendix I of the regulations. Parra, 481 F.3d at 746. If the impediment meets or equals one of the listed impairments, the claimant is presumptively disabled. ...


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