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Mary L. Ferguson v. Michael J. Astrue

September 9, 2011

MARY L. FERGUSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Paul L. Abrams United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

I.

PROCEEDINGS Plaintiff filed this action on December 27, 2010, seeking review of the Commissioner's denial of her application for Disability Insurance Benefits. The parties filed Consents to proceed before the undersigned Magistrate Judge on January 12, 2011, and January 20, 2011. Pursuant to the Court's Order, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation on July 13, 2011, that addresses their positions concerning the disputed issue in the case. The Court has taken the Joint Stipulation under submission without oral argument.

II.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was born on May 10, 1950. [Administrative Record ("AR") at 203, 226.] She has at least a twelfth grade education,*fn1 and past relevant work experience as a school secretary, executive secretary, sales representative, and sales clerk. [AR at 27-28, 105-07, 131.]

On March 20, 2009, plaintiff filed her application for Disability Insurance Benefits, alleging that she has been unable to work since May 1, 2006, due to terminal multiple myeloma, neuropathy in her hands and feet, pain in her feet, and cataracts in both eyes. [AR at 112-13, 203-04, 229-36, 262-69.] After her application was denied initially and on reconsideration, plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). [AR at 114-17, 123-30.] A hearing was held on April 22, 2010, at which time plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified on her own behalf. [AR at 78-111.] A medical expert and a vocational expert also testified. [AR at 98-109.] On May 5, 2010, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled. [AR at 21-28.] On October 28, 2010, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review. [AR at 1-4.] This action followed.

III.

STANDARD OF REVIEW Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court has authority to review 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, the term "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; see also Drouin, 966 F.2d at 1257. When 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; Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989). 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; Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039-40 (9th Cir. 1995); Drouin, 966 F.2d at 1258.

IV.

THE EVALUATION OF DISABILITY

Persons are "disabled" for purposes of receiving Social Security benefits if they are unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity owing to a physical or mental impairment that is expected to result in death or which has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at ...


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