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Martin Salas v. Michael J. Astrue

January 3, 2012

MARTIN SALAS,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Carla M. Woehrle United States Magistrate Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

The parties have consented under 28 U.S.C § 636(c), to the jurisdiction of the undersigned Magistrate Judge. Plaintiff seeks review of the Commissioner's denial of disability and disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income benefits. For the reasons stated below, the Magistrate Judge finds that judgment should be granted in favor of Defendant, affirming the Commissioner's decision.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Martin Salas, was born on January 30, 1960, and was 49 years old at the time of his administrative hearing. [Administrative Record "AR" 32, 138-40.] He speaks only Spanish and has a fifth grade education. [AR 157, 163. ] He has past relevant work as a cook, short order cook, merchandise deliverer, and purchasing agent. [AR 27.] Plaintiff alleges disability on the basis of an injury to his right leg and poor vision. [AR 158.]

II. PROCEEDINGS IN THIS COURT

Plaintiff's complaint was lodged on February 23, 2011. On September 6, 2011, Defendant filed an Answer and plaintiff's Administrative Record ("AR"). On November 7, 2011, the parties filed their Joint Stipulation ("JS") identifying matters not in dispute, issues in dispute, the positions of the parties, and the relief sought by each party. This matter has been taken under submission without oral argument.

III. PRIOR ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS

On February 28, 2007, Plaintiff applied for disability and disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income ("SSI") benefits under Title II and Title XVI of the Social Security Act, alleging disability since March 20, 2006. [AR 130-37, 138-40.]

After the application was denied [AR 94-96], Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing, which was held on June 30, 2009, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Edward Schneeburger. [Transcript, AR 32-73.] Plaintiff testified, with the aid of an interpreter [AR 40-61], and the ALJ also received testimony from vocational expert ("VE") Steven Barry [AR 62-72].

The ALJ denied benefits in an administrative decision issued on July 16, 2009. [AR 15-31.] Plaintiff requested Appeals Council review of the decision, and provided additional evidence and arguments in support of his request. [AR 5-6, 12-13.] When the Appeals Council denied review on December 9, 2010, the ALJ's decision became the Commissioner's final decision. [AR 1-4.] This action followed.

IV. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), a district court may review the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. The Commissioner's (or ALJ's) findings and decisions should be upheld if they are free of legal error and supported by substantial evidence. However, if the court determines that a finding is based on legal error or is not supported by substantial evidence in the record, the court may reject the finding and set aside the decision to deny benefits. See Aukland v. Massanari, 257 F.3d 1033, 1035 (9th Cir. 2001); Tonapetyan v. Halter, 242 F.3d 1144, 1147 (9th Cir. 2001); Osenbrock v. Apfel, 240 F.3d 1157, 1162 (9th Cir. 2001); Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1097 (9th Cir. 1999); Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 720 (9th Cir. 1998); Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996); Moncada v. Chater, 60 F.3d 521, 523 (9th Cir. 1995) (per curiam).

"Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance." Reddick, 157 F.3d at 720. It is "relevant evidence which a reasonable person might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Id. To determine whether substantial evidence supports a finding, a court must review the administrative record as a whole, "weighing both the evidence that supports and the evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's conclusion." Id. "If the evidence can reasonably support either affirming or reversing," the reviewing ...


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