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Bruce Stewart Waterman v. Michael J. Astrue

January 5, 2012

BRUCE STEWART WATERMAN, 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 February 25, 2011, Bruce Stewart Waterman ("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 Insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income benefits. The Commissioner filed an Answer on August 25, 2011. On October 14, 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 male who applied for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income benefits on November 29, 2007, alleging disability beginning September 15, 2003. (AR 8.) Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since that date. (AR 10.)

Plaintiff's claims were denied initially on February 1, 2008, and on reconsideration on March 28, 2008. (AR 8.) Plaintiff filed a timely request for hearing, which was held before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Mason Harrell, Jr. on July 22, 2009, in San Bernardino, California. (AR 8, 27-46.) ALJ Harrell conducted a second hearing on August 27, 2009, to obtain the expert testimony of a clinical psychologist. (AR 45, 49.) Claimant appeared and testified at both hearings. (AR 8.) Medical expert Dr. David Glassmire and vocational expert ("VE") David A. Rinehart appeared and testified at the supplemental hearing. (AR 8.) Plaintiff was represented by counsel at both hearings. (AR 8.)

The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on November 27, 2009. (AR 8-20.) The Appeals Council denied review on January 25, 2011. (AR 1-4.)

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 has properly considered Plaintiff's subjective complaints and testimony and properly assessed Plaintiff's credibility.

2. Whether the ALJ has properly considered the subjective statements of Plaintiff's mother and properly assessed her 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 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 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).

THE 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 Commissioner has established a five-step ...


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