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Jimmielee Simmons Bever v. Michael J. Astrue

October 27, 2011

JIMMIELEE SIMMONS BEVER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John E. Mcdermott United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER REVERSING DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY AND REMANDING FOR FURTHER PROCEEDINGS

PROCEEDINGS

On December 28, 2010, Jimmielee Simmons Bever ("Plaintiff" or "Claimant" or "Bever") filed a complaint seeking review of the decision by the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner") denying Plaintiff's application for Social Security disability insurance benefits. The Commissioner filed an Answer to the Complaint on July 7, 2011. On September 8, 2011, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS").

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), both parties consented to proceed before the undersigned Magistrate Judge. After reviewing the pleadings, transcripts, and administrative record ("AR"), the Court concludes that the Commissioner's decision shouldbe reversed and remanded for further proceedings in accordance with this Memorandum Opinion and Order and with law.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Bever is a 62 year old female who filed an application for Social Security disability and disability insurance benefits on May 14, 2007, alleging disability beginning May 1, 2006. (AR 5.) Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since that date. (AR 7.)

Plaintiff's claim was denied initially on September 14, 2007, and on reconsideration on July 3, 2008. (AR 5.) Plaintiff filed a timely request for a hearing, which was held on August 18, 2009, in Palm Springs, California, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Joseph D. Schloss. (AR 5.) Plaintiff appeared and testified at the hearing. (AR 5.) Vocational expert ("VE") Troy L. Scott also appeared at the hearing. (AR 5.) Claimant was represented by counsel. (AR 5.)

The ALJ issued a decision denying benefits on November 24, 2009. (AR 5-12 .) The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on October 28, 2010. (AR 38-42.)

DISPUTED ISSUES

As reflected in the Joint Stipulation, the issues Plaintiff raises as grounds for reversal and remand are as follows:

1. Whether the ALJ properly evaluated the opinions of Dr. Coyne.

2. Whether the ALJ properly evaluated the opinions of Dr. Alhadeff.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the ALJ's decision to determine whether the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence and free of legal error. Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996); see also DeLorme v. Sullivan, 924 F.2d 841, 846 (9th Cir. 1991) (ALJ's disability determination must be supported by substantial evidence and based on the proper legal standards).

Substantial evidence means "'more than a mere scintilla,' but less than a preponderance." Saelee v. Chater, 94 F.3d 520, 521-22 (9th Cir. 1996) (quoting Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

This Court must review the record as a whole and consider adverse as well as supporting evidence. Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006). Where evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the ALJ's decision must be upheld. Morgan v. Comm'r of the Soc. Sec. Admin., 169 F.3d 595, 599 (9th Cir. 1999). "However, a reviewing court must consider the entire record as a whole and may not affirm simply by isolating a 'specific quantum of supporting evidence.'" Robbins, 466 F.3d at 882 (quoting Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989)); see also Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007).

THE SEQUENTIAL EVALUATION

The Social Security Act defines disability as the "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or . . . can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. ยงยง 423(d) (1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). The ...


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