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Jill Thornsberry v. Michael J. Astrue

February 27, 2012

JILL THORNSBERRY,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Janis L. Sammartino United States District Judge

ORDER (1) ADOPTING R&R; (2) DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; AND (3) GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF Nos. 17, 18, 21)

Presently before the Court is Magistrate Judge Mitchell D. Dembin's report and recommendation ("R&R") advising the Court to deny Plaintiff Jill Thornsberry's ("Plaintiff") motion for summary judgment, (Pl.'s MSJ, ECF No. 17), and grant Defendant Michael J. Astrue's ("Defendant") motion for summary judgment, (Def.'s MSJ, ECF No. 18). (R&R, ECF No. 21) Also before the Court are Plaintiff's objections to the R&R. (Obj., ECF No. 22).

BACKGROUND

Magistrate Judge Dembin's R&R contains a thorough and accurate recitation of the facts and procedural history underlying Plaintiff's appeal of the denial of her application for supplemental security income under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. (R&R 1--2, ECF No. 21) This Order incorporates by reference the facts as set forth in the R&R. Defendant did not file objections to the R&R. Plaintiff objected to the R&R on February 13, 2012. (Obj., ECF No. 22)

LEGAL STANDARDS

1. District Court Review of a Report and Recommendation

Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) set forth a district court's duties regarding a magistrate judge's R&R. The district court "shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report . . . to which objection is made," and "may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the [magistrate judge]." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(c); see also United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 673--76 (1980). However, in the absence of a timely objection, "the court need only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation." Fed. R. Civ. P. 72 advisory committee's note (citing Campbell v. U.S. Dist. Ct., 501 F.2d 196, 206 (9th Cir. 1974)).

2. Review of Denial of Disability Claim

When an applicant's claim for disability benefits under the Social Security Act has been denied, she may seek judicial review of the Commissioner's decision. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The reviewing Court will reverse the Commissioner's decision only if "it is based upon legal error or is not supported by substantial evidence." Bayliss v. Barnhart, 427 F.3d 1211, 1214 n.1 (9th Cir. 2005) (citing Tidwell v. Apfel, 161 F.3d 599, 601 (9th Cir. 1999)). "Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion" and is "more than a mere scintilla but less than a preponderance." Webb v. Barnhart, 433 F.3d 683, 686 (9th Cir. 2005) (citing Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)); Tidwell, 161 F.3d at 601 (citing Jamerson v. Chater, 112 F.3d 1064, 1066 (9th Cir.1997)). This inquiry looks to the record as a whole. Sample v. Schweiker, 694 F.2d 639, 642 (9th Cir. 1982). However, if the evidence supports more than one interpretation, the Court must uphold the Administrative Law Judge's ("ALJ") decision. Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th Cir. 1999). "Where, as here, the Appeals Council denies a request for review of an ALJ's decision, the decision of the ALJ represents the final decision of the Commissioner." Batson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1193 n.1 (9th Cir 2004) (citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.981).

In order to qualify for disability benefits, an applicant must show that she is "disabled," meaning (1) that she suffers from a medically determinable impairment that can be expected to last for a continuous period of twelve months or more, or would result in death, and (2) the impairment renders the applicant incapable of performing the work she previously performed or any other substantially gainful employment that exists in the national economy. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), (2)(A). To evaluate the applicant's claim, an ALJ must apply a five-step analysis. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520.

In step one, the ALJ determines whether a claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity. If so, the claimant is not disabled. If not, the ALJ proceeds to step two and evaluates whether the claimant has a medically severe impairment or combination of impairments. If not, the claimant is not disabled. If so, the ALJ proceeds to step three and considers whether the impairment or combination of impairments meets or equals a listed impairment under 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, App. 1. If so, the claimant is automatically presumed disabled. If not, the ALJ proceeds to step four and assesses whether the claimant is capable of performing her past relevant work. If so, the claimant is not disabled. If not, the ALJ proceeds to step five and examines whether the claimant has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform any other substantial gainful activity in the national economy. If so, the claimant is not disabled. If not, the claimant is disabled.

Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005). A claimant bears the burden of proof with respect to the first four steps, but for the fifth step the burden shifts to the Commissioner. Id. (citing Swenson v. Sullivan, 876 F.2d 683, 687 (9th Cir. 1989)).

ANALYSIS

In her motion and objections, Plaintiff asserts that the ALJ erred in (1) rejecting the opinions of Plaintiff's treating physicians and (2) rejecting Plaintiff's testimony regarding her disability. (Pl.'s MSJ, ECF No. 17); (Obj., ECF No. 22) The Court ...


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