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Cesar Diaz v. Michael J. Astrue

January 6, 2012

CESAR DIAZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gregory G. Hollows United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER

Plaintiff is an individual who received Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Social Security Act ("Act") based on disability as a child. Eligibility for these benefits was redetermined under the rules for determining disability in adults after plaintiff attained the age of 18. Plaintiff now seeks judicial review of a final decision by the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") concluding that plaintiff's disability ended on December 13, 2007.

For the reasons that follow, plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is denied, defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment is granted, and judgment is entered for defendant.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, born December 31, 1988, was awarded SSI as a disabled child as of November 21, 2002. (Tr. at 13, 23, 443.) On April 8, 2008, after plaintiff, who suffers from borderline intellectual function and cardiomyopathy, attained the age of 18, the Commissioner determined that plaintiff was no longer disabled as of April 8, 2008. (Tr. at 24.)*fn1 Plaintiff sought reconsideration, and on November 6, 2008, a disability hearing officer upheld the determination that plaintiff's disability ceased as of April 8, 2008. (Tr. at 25-26.) Plaintiff then requested a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"), which was held on September 11, 2009. (Tr. at 42, 430.) At the hearing, plaintiff was represented by counsel, and a medical expert, Dr. Alan Frank, and a vocational expert, Mr. Stephen Schmidt, also testified. (Tr. at 430-71.)

In a decision dated February 26, 2010, ALJ James M. Mitchell determined that plaintiff's disability ended on December 13, 2007. (Tr. at 21.) The ALJ made the following findings:*fn2

1. The claimant attained age 18 on December 30 [sic], 2006 and was eligible for supplemental security income benefits as a child for the month preceding the month in which he attained age 18. The claimant was notified that he was found no longer disabled as of April 1 [sic], 2008, based on a redetermination of disability under the rules for adults who file new applications.

2. At the hearing level, it was determined that the claimant was no longer disabled as of December 13, 2007.

3. Since December 13, 2007, the claimant has had the following severe impairments: cardiomyopathy and borderline intellectual functioning.

4. Since December 13, 2007, the claimant did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).

5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that since December 13, 2007, the claimant has had the following residual functional capacity: the ability to lift, push, and pull 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; the ability to walk/stand frequently; the ability to sit, stoop, and bend occasionally; and the slightly limited ability to do simple, routine, repetitive tasks. The claimant requires occasional supervision and has slight to moderate pain.

6. The claimant has no past relevant work (20 CFR 416.965).

7. The claimant was born on December 31, 1988 and is a younger individual age 18-49 (20 CFR 416.963).

8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 416.964).

9. Transferability of job skills is not an issue because the claimant does not have past relevant work (20 CFR 416.968).

10. Since December 13, 2007, considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform (20 CFR 416.969 and 416.969(a)).

11. The claimant's disability ended on December 13, 2007, and the claimant has not become disabled again since that date (20 CFR 416.987(e) and 416.920(g)). (Tr. at 15-20.) Subsequently, on June 9, 2010, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. at 5-7.) ISSUES PRESENTED

Plaintiff's motion presents the following issues for review: (1) whether the ALJ improperly failed to consider plaintiff's pre-2007 IQ test results; (2) whether the ALJ improperly failed to address evidence concerning plaintiff's learning disorders; and (3) whether the ALJ erred in crediting the testifying medical expert's opinion with respect to plaintiff's physical limitations.

LEGAL STANDARDS

The court reviews the Commissioner's decision to determine whether (1) it is based on proper legal standards pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), and (2) substantial evidence in the record as a whole supports it. Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1097 (9th Cir.1999). Substantial evidence is more than a mere scintilla, but less than a preponderance. Connett v. Barnhart, 340 F.3d 871, 873 (9th Cir. 2003) (citation omitted). It means "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007), quoting Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005). "The ALJ is responsible for determining credibility, resolving conflicts in medical testimony, and resolving ambiguities." Edlund v. Massanari, 253 F.3d 1152, 1156 (9th Cir. ...


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