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Maria Depaz v. Michael J. Astrue

December 27, 2011

MARIA DEPAZ, 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 COMMISSIONER PROCEEDINGS

On April 26, 2011, Maria Depaz ("Plaintiff or Claimant") filed a complaint seeking review of the decision by the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying Plaintiff's application for Social Security Disability and Disability Insurance benefits. The Commissioner filed an Answer on July 28, 2011. On October 5, 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 58 year old female who applied for Social Security Disability and Disability Insurance benefits on November 9, 2008, alleging disability beginning September 20, 1999, due to neck problems, carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, and anxiety. (AR 18.) Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity during the period from her alleged onset date through her date last insured of June 30, 2005. (AR 20.)

Plaintiff's claim was denied initially on December 30, 2008, and on reconsideration on March 2, 2009. (AR 18.) Plaintiff filed a timely request for hearing, which was held before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Edward C. Graham on February 3, 2010, in Palmdale, California. (AR 29-49.) Claimant appeared and testified with the assistance of a professional Spanish interpreter. (AR 18.) Vocational expert ("VE") Randy Langford-Hetrick and Claimant's husband, Jose Depaz, also appeared and testified at the hearing. (AR 18.) Plaintiff was represented by counsel. (AR 18.)

The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on February 24, 2010. (AR 18-25.) The Appeals Council denied review on March 2, 2011. (AR 1-7.)

DISPUTED ISSUES

As reflected in the Joint Stipulation, the disputed issues that Plaintiff is raising as grounds for reversal and remand are as follows:

1. Whether the ALJ properly developed the record.

2. Whether the ALJ properly evaluated Plaintiff's mental impairment and resulting functional limitations as required by 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520a.

3. Whether the ALJ properly considered the residual functional capacity.

4. Whether the ALJ posed a complete hypothetical question to the vocational expert. 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 ...


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