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Paula Santos v. Michael J. Astrue

November 21, 2011

PAULA SANTOS, 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 AFFIRMING DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY PROCEEDINGS

On December 17, 2010, Paula Santos ("Plaintiff" or "Claimant") filed a complaint seeking review of the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying Plaintiff's applications for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income benefits. The Commissioner filed an Answer on June 16, 2011. On September 8, 2011, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS"). The matter is now ready for decision.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), both parties consented to proceed before this Magistrate Judge. After reviewing the pleadings, transcripts, and administrative record ("AR"), the Court concludes that the Commissioner's decision should be affirmed and this action dismissed with prejudice.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is a 48 year old female who filed an application for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits and Supplemental Social Security Income benefits on May 23, 2008, alleging disability beginning February 10, 2008. (AR 8.) Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since that date. (AR 10.)

Plaintiff's claims were denied initially on September 12, 2008, and on reconsideration on March 13, 2009. (AR 8.) Plaintiff filed a timely request for hearing, which was held on March 30, 2010, in San Bernardino, California, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Sharilyn Hopson. (AR 18-54.) Plaintiff appeared and testified at the hearing. (AR 8.) Medical expert Dr. Joseph Malancharuvil and vocational expert ("VE") Corinne J. Porter also appeared and testified at the hearing. (AR 8.) Claimant was represented by counsel. (AR 8.)

The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on May 6, 2010. (AR 8-17.) The Appeals Council denied review on October 18, 2010. (AR 1-3.)

DISPUTED ISSUES

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

1. Whether the ALJ has properly considered all of the relevant medical evidence of record including the testimony of the medical expert.

2. Whether the ALJ has properly considered Plaintiff's subjective complaints and properly assessed Plaintiff's credibility as well as those statements made by Plaintiff's boyfriend.

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 quotations 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, 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 ...


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