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James Edward Whaley v. Michael J. Astrue

November 9, 2011

JAMES EDWARD WHALEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Oswald Parada United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

The Court now rules as follows with respect to the four disputed issues *fn1 listed in the Joint Stipulation ("JS"). *fn2

I. DISPUTED ISSUES

As reflected in the Joint Stipulation, the disputed issues raised by Plaintiff as the grounds for reversal and/or remand are as follows:

(1) Whether the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") properly evaluated Plaintiff's mental impairment;

(2) Whether the ALJ properly considered Plaintiff's testimony;

(3) Whether the ALJ properly determined Plaintiff's residual functional capacity ("RFC"); and

(4) Whether the ALJ properly relied on testimony of the Vocational Expert ("VE").

(JS at 6.)

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the Commissioner's decision to determine whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence and whether the proper legal standards were applied. DeLorme v. Sullivan, 924 F.2d 841, 846 (9th Cir. 1991). Substantial evidence means "more than a mere scintilla" but less than a preponderance. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S. Ct. 1420, 28 L. Ed. 2d 842 (1971); Desrosiers v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 846 F.2d 573, 575-76 (9th Cir. 1988). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401 (citation omitted). The Court must review the record as a whole and consider adverse as well as supporting evidence. Green v. Heckler, 803 F.2d 528, 529-30 (9th Cir. 1986). Where evidence is susceptible of more than one rational interpretation, the Commissioner's decision must be upheld. Gallant v. Heckler, 753 F.2d 1450, 1452 (9th Cir. 1984).

III. DISCUSSION

A. The ALJ's Findings.

The ALJ found that Plaintiff has severe physical and mental impairments, including seizure disorder, alcohol dependence in remission per self-report, mood disorder not otherwise specified, and personality disorder with dependent traits. (AR at 19.) He also found that Plaintiff's medically determinable impairments cause significant limitations in his ability to perform basic work activities. (Id.)

The ALJ further found that Plaintiff had the RFC to perform work at all exertional levels, with occasional climbing of ramps and stairs. (Id. at 21.) However, he is precluded from climbing ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, and from work around hazards "(unprotected heights, moving machinery, etc.)." (Id.) Plaintiff was further limited to simple, routine, repetitive work with occasional contact with the public. (Id.)

Relying on the testimony of a VE, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was unable to perform his past relevant work of Shipping and Receiving Clerk (Dictionary of Occupational Titles ("DOT") No. 222.387-050). (AR at 24.) The ALJ also relied on the VE's testimony to determine that there were alternative occupations Plaintiff could perform, such as Product Inspector (DOT No. 712.684-050), Gluer/Labeler (DOT No. 795.687-014), and ...


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