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Cornelius Tatum v. Michael J. Astrue

August 25, 2011

CORNELIUS TATUM,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Margaret A. Nagle United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff filed a Complaint on October 19, 2010, seeking review of the denial by the Social Security Commissioner (the "Commissioner") of plaintiff's application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits ("DIB"). On December 16, 2010, the parties consented, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), to proceed before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge. The parties filed a Joint Stipulation on July 28, 2011, in which: plaintiff seeks an order reversing the Commissioner's decision and remanding this case for the payment of benefits or, alternatively, for further administrative proceedings; and defendant requests that the Commissioner's decision be affirmed or, alternatively, remanded for further administrative proceedings. The Court has taken the parties' Joint Stipulation under submission without oral argument.

SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS

On November 1, 2007, plaintiff filed an application for a period of disability and DIB. (Administrative Record ("A.R.") 11, 16.) Plaintiff, who was born on April 7, 1970,*fn1 claims to have been disabled since August 20, 2007, due to lower back injuries.*fn2 (A.R. 11-17, 50, 61.) Plaintiff has past relevant work experience as a "material handler/warehouseman." (A.R. 15.)

After the Commissioner denied plaintiff's claim initially and upon reconsideration (A.R. 11, 50-54, 61-65), plaintiff requested a hearing (A.R. 67). On June 5, 2009, plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, appeared and testified at a hearing before Administrative Law Judge Michael D. Radensky (the "ALJ"). (A.R. 18-47.) Plaintiff's wife, Kisha Tatum (A.R. 37-42), and vocational expert Rinehart (A.R. 43-46) also testified.

On August 27, 2009, the ALJ denied plaintiff's claim (A.R. 11-17), and the Appeals Council subsequently denied plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision (A.R. 2-4). That decision is now at issue in this action.

SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

The ALJ found that plaintiff meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 21, 2011. (A.R. 13.) The ALJ also found that plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 20, 2007, the alleged onset date. (Id.) The ALJ determined that plaintiff has the severe impairment of degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine. (Id.) The ALJ further determined that plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526). (Id.)

After reviewing the record, the ALJ determined that plaintiff has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b), with the exception that plaintiff can perform "no more than occasional postural activities." (A.R. 14.) The ALJ further determined that plaintiff is unable to perform his past relevant work as a "material handler/warehouseman." (Id.)

The ALJ found that plaintiff "has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English." (A.R. 16.) The ALJ also found that "[t]ransferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability because using the Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding that [plaintiff] is 'not disabled,' whether or not [plaintiff] has transferable job skills." (Id.)

Having considered plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, as well as the testimony of the vocational expert, the ALJ found that jobs exist in significant numbers in the national economy that plaintiff could perform, including those of assembler small parts I, cashier, and electronic worker. (A.R. 16.) Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from August 20, 2007, through the date of his decision. (A.R. 17.)

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the Commissioner's decision to determine whether it is free from legal error and supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. Orn v. Astrue, 495

F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence is "'such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'" Id. (citation omitted). The "evidence must be more than a mere scintilla but not necessarily a preponderance." Connett v. Barnhart, 340 F.3d 871, 873 (9th Cir. 2003). "While inferences from the record can constitute substantial evidence, only those 'reasonably drawn ...


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