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Debra Lynn Dougherty v. Michael J. Astrue

September 21, 2011

DEBRA LYNN DOUGHERTY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



ORDER

Plaintiff seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying her application for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act. The parties' cross-motions for summary judgment motions are pending. For the reasons discussed below, the court grants the Commissioner's motion and denies plaintiff's motion.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, born February 15, 1963, formally applied for DIB on July 2, 2007, alleging that she had been disabled since November 23, 2004. Administrative Record ("AR") 20, 23. Plaintiff's application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, and plaintiff requested an administrative hearing. Id. On December 11, 2008, and July 1, 2009, hearings were held before administrative law judge ("ALJ") Laura Speck Havens. Id. at 20. Plaintiff was represented by counsel at the hearings, at which she and a vocational expert ("VE") testified. Id.

The ALJ's November 3, 2009 decision found that plaintiff was not disabled from the disability onset date until the date of the decision.*fn1 Id. at 20-29. The ALJ made the following specific findings:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2009.

2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since November 23, 2004, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq.).

3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: myofascial pain syndrome and left hip osteoarthritis (20 CFR 404.1520(c)).

*** 4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525 and 404.1526).

5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform a reduced range of medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c). She is able to sit, stand, or walk 6 hours each during a normal 8-hour workday, and is able to lift or carry 50 pounds occasionally, 25 pounds frequently. She can occasionally climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. The claimant is limited to occasional reaching and performing tasks involving fine and gross manipulation with her right dominant upper extremity.

6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565). ***

7. The claimant was born on February 15, 1963 and was 41 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 404.1563).

8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564).

9. Transferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability because using the Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding that the claimant is "not disabled," whether or not the claimant has transferable job skills (See SSR 82-41 and 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).

10. Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there were jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can performed (20 CFR 404.1569 and 404.1569(a)).

11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from November 23, 2004 through the date of this decision.

Id. at 20-29.

Plaintiff requested that the Appeals Council review the ALJ's decision. The Appeals Council denied review, leaving the ALJ's decision as the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security. Id. at 1-3.

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

The Commissioner's decision that a claimant is not disabled will be upheld if the findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence in the record and the proper legal standards were applied. Schneider v. Comm'r of the Soc. Sec. Admin., 223 F.3d 968, 973 (9th Cir. 2000); Morgan v. Comm'r of the Soc. Sec. Admin., 169 F.3d 595, 599 (9th Cir. 1999); Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1097 (9th Cir. 1999).

The findings of the Commissioner as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, are conclusive. See Miller v. Heckler, 770 F.2d 845, 847 (9th Cir. 1985). Substantial evidence is more than a mere scintilla, but less than a preponderance. Saelee v. Chater, 94 F.3d 520, 521 (9th Cir. 1996). "'It means such evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'" Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (quoting Consol. Edison Co. v. N.L.R.B., 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)).

"The ALJ is responsible for determining credibility, resolving conflicts in medical testimony, and resolving ambiguities." Edlund v. Massanari, 253 F.3d 1152, 1156 (9th Cir. 2001) (citations omitted). "Where the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, one of which supports the ALJ's decision, the ...


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