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Brenda Barrett v. Michael J. Astrue

September 13, 2011

BRENDA BARRETT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: United States Magistrate Judge Alicia G. Rosenberg

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Brenda Barrett filed this action on September 9, 2010. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before the magistrate judge on September 29 and October 1, 2010. (Dkt. Nos. 7, 9.) On May 23, 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 November 30, 2007, Barrett filed an application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income alleging a disability onset date of June 1, 2004. Administrative Record ("AR") 9. The application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Id. Barrett requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). AR 90. On October 22, 2009, the ALJ conducted a hearing at which Barrett and a vocational expert testified. AR 22-70. On December 16, 2009, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 6-18. On August 11, 2010, the Appeals Council denied the request for review. AR 1-3. 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 Barrett met the insured status requirements through September 21, 2006. AR 11.

Barrett has the following severe impairments: asthma, bipolar disorder, polysubstance abuse, and limited vision in one eye. Id. She has the residual functional capacity to perform "less than a full range of light work." AR 13. She "is limited to occasional performance of postural activities; no ladders, ropes, scaffolds, hazardous machinery, or heights; [she] needs to work in a clean air environment; she can only perform non-complex work that is object oriented; she is limited to non public ...


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