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Jasmine Howard v. Michael J. Astrue

June 25, 2012

JASMINE HOWARD, 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 THE COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY PROCEEDINGS

On October 20, 2011, Jasmine Howard ("Plaintiff" or "Claimant") filed a complaint seeking review of the decision by the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying Plaintiff's application for Supplemental Security Income benefits. The Commissioner filed an Answer on January 19, 2012. On June 1, 2012, 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 the case dismissed with prejudice.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is a 21 year old female who, on April 7, 2009, filed an application for child's insurance benefits based on disability and also filed an application for supplemental security income on that same date. (AR 9.) In both applications, Plaintiff alleged disability beginning September 28, 1998. (AR 9.) At the April 1, 2011 hearing, Plaintiff waived her disability claim as a child and pursued her claim as an adult only. (AR 9.) Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since September 28, 1998, the alleged onset date. (AR 11.)

Plaintiff's claims were denied initially on September 8, 2009, and on reconsideration on February 22, 2010. (AR 9.) Plaintiff filed a timely request for hearing, which was held before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Tamara Turner-Jones on April 1, 2011, in San Bernardino, California. (AR 22-57.) Claimant appeared and testified at the hearing, and was represented by counsel. (AR 9.) Vocational expert ("VE") David A. Rinehart also appeared and testified at the hearing. (AR 9.) The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on June 17, 2011. (AR 9-17.) The Appeals Council denied review on September 13, 2011. (AR 1-3.)

DISPUTED ISSUES

As reflected in the Joint Stipulation, Plaintiff raises the following disputed issues as grounds for reversal and remand:

1. Whether the ALJ properly considered the treating psychiatrist's opinion.

2. Whether the ALJ provided a complete and accurate assessment of Plaintiff's residual functional capacity.

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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