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De Oneicia Kaufman v. Michael J. Astrue

August 25, 2011

DE ONEICIA KAUFMAN, 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

De Oneicia Kaufman("Kaufman") filed this action on July 21, 2010. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before the magistrate judge on August 11 and 16, 2010. (Dkt. Nos. 8, 9.) On April 25, 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 remands this matter to the Commissioner for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On July 1, 2005, Kaufman filed an application for supplemental security income payments and, on September 22, 2005, she filed an application for disability insurance benefits alleging a disability onset date of September 11, 2004. Administrative Record ("AR") 26. The applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration. AR 26. Kaufman requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). AR 26. On July 6, 2007, the ALJ conducted a hearing at which Kaufman, a medical expert and a vocational expert testified. AR 968-96. On August 28, 2007, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 26-31. On April 16, 2010, the Appeals Council denied the request for review. AR 6-8. 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).

"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. When the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the Court must defer to the Commissioner's decision. Moncada, 60 F.3d at 523.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Disability

A person qualifies as disabled, and thereby eligible for such 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 Kaufman had the medically determinable impairment of post-traumatic stress disorder ("PTSD"). AR 30. At step two of the sequential analysis, the ALJ found Kaufman did not have any impairment or combination of impairments that significantly limited her ability to perform basic ...


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