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Steven B. Begey v. Michael J. Astrue

August 12, 2011

STEVEN B. BEGEY
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 Steven B. Begey filed a complaint on May 6, 2010. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before the magistrate judge on May 21 and June 18, 2010. (Dkt. Nos. 8, 9.) On February 15, 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 June 23, 2005, Begey filed an application for disability insurance benefits. Administrative Record ("AR") 14.*fn1 He alleged a disability onset date of March 3, 2003. Id. The application was denied initially and on reconsideration. Id. Begey requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). AR 36. On September 13, 2007, an ALJ conducted a hearing at which Begey testified. AR 1329-57. On October 18, 2007, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 14-22. On March 3, 2010, the Appeals Council denied the request for review. AR 3-6. 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 that Begey met the insured status requirements through March 31, 2007. AR 16. Begey had the following severe impairments: degenerative joint and disc disease of the cervical spine with moderate spinal stenosis, degenerative joint disease, left shoulder, status post left shoulder arthroscopic decompression in 2002, coronary artery disease, status post stent placement times two with one stent replacement, noninsulin dependent diabetes mellitus, controlled hypertension, hyperlipidemia, tobacco abuse, moderate obesity with chronic obstructive sleep apnea, old healed left patella fracture, and adjustment disorder, mild, with mixed emotional features. AR 17.

The ALJ found Begey had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work, except stand or walk occasionally (two out of eight hours), sit frequently (six out of eight hours) with customary breaks, and climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl occasionally. AR 19. Begey could not perform any past relevant work, but ...


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