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Lashawn Bagler v. Michael J. Astrue

November 29, 2011

LASHAWN BAGLER, 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 March 27, 2011, Lashawn Bagler ("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 29, 2011. On September 12, 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 40 year old female who protectively filed an application for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income benefits on March 27, 2008, alleging disability beginning December 11, 2007. (AR 11.) Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since that date. (AR 13.)

Plaintiff's claims were denied initially on September 3, 2008, and on reconsideration on December 3, 2008. (AR 11.) Plaintiff filed a timely request for hearing, which was held on November 23, 2009, in San Bernardino, California, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Mason D. Harrell, Jr. (AR 39-61.) Medical expert Dr. Samuel Landau*fn1 and vocational expert ("VE") Sandra M. Fioretti appeared and testified at the hearing. (AR 11.) Plaintiff appeared and testified at the hearing without representation by counsel. (AR 11.)

The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on January 6, 2010. (AR 11-21.) The Appeals Council denied review on February 24, 2011. (AR 1-5.)

DISPUTED ISSUES

As reflected in the Joint Stipulation, the only disputed issue that Plaintiff raises as a ground for reversal and remand is as follows:

1. Whether the ALJ has properly assessed Plaintiff's credibility.

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 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).

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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