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Felipe Leanos v. Michael J. Astrue

October 7, 2011

FELIPE LEANOS,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Carla M. Woehrle United States Magistrate Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

The parties have consented under 28 U.S.C § 636(c), to the jurisdiction of the undersigned Magistrate Judge. Plaintiff seeks review of the Commissioner's denial of disability and disability insurance benefits. For the reasons stated below, the Magistrate Judge finds that judgment should be granted in favor of Defendant, affirming the Commissioner's decision.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Felipe Leanos, was born on May 14, 1977, and was 29- years old as of his alleged onset date. [Administrative Record "AR" 14, 87.] He has a limited education, is able to communicate in English, and has past relevant work as an assistant construction superintendent, plumber, warehouse laborer, delivery truck driver, and soil sampling laborer. [AR 14, 100.] Plaintiff alleges disability on the basis of congestive heart failure. [AR 99.]

II. PROCEEDINGS IN THIS COURT

Plaintiff's complaint was lodged on January 6, 2011, and filed on January 24, 2011. On July 20, 2011, Defendant filed an Answer and plaintiff's Administrative Record ("AR"). On September 22, 2011the parties filed their Joint Stipulation ("JS") identifying matters not in dispute, issues in dispute, the positions of the parties, and the relief sought by each party. This matter has been taken under submission without oral argument.

III. PRIOR ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS

Plaintiff applied for disability and disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act on March 5, 2008, alleging disability since June 1, 2006. [AR 87-89.]

After the application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing, which was held on September 29, 2009, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Jay Levine. [Transcript, AR 39-50.] Plaintiff appeared with counsel, and testimony was taken from Plaintiff [AR 50-53] and vocational expert ("VE") David Rinehart [AR 20-22].

The ALJ denied benefits in an administrative decision filed on November 17, 2009. [AR 8-16.] When the Appeals Council denied review on December 9, 2010, the ALJ's decision became the Commissioner's final decision. [AR 1-3.] This action followed.

IV. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), a district court may review the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. The Commissioner's (or ALJ's) findings and decisions should be upheld if they are free of legal error and supported by substantial evidence. However, if the court determines that a finding is based on legal error or is not supported by substantial evidence in the record, the court may reject the finding and set aside the decision to deny benefits. See Aukland v. Massanari, 257 F.3d 1033, 1035 (9th Cir. 2001); Tonapetyan v. Halter, 242 F.3d 1144, 1147 (9th Cir. 2001); Osenbrock v. Apfel, 240 F.3d 1157, 1162 (9th Cir. 2001); Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1097 (9th Cir. 1999); Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 720 (9th Cir. 1998); Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996); Moncada v. Chater, 60 F.3d 521, 523 (9th Cir. 1995) (per curiam).

"Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance." Reddick, 157 F.3d at 720. It is "relevant evidence which a reasonable person might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Id. To determine whether substantial evidence supports a finding, a court must review the administrative record as a whole, "weighing both the evidence that supports and the evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's conclusion." Id. "If the evidence can reasonably support either affirming or reversing," the reviewing court "may not substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Reddick, 157 F. 3d at 720-721; see also Osenbrock, 240 F. 3d 1162.

V. DISCUSSION

A. THE FIVE-STEP ...


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