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Michael L. Taylor v. Michael J. Astrue

July 16, 2012

MICHAEL L. TAYLOR,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Alicia G. ROSENBERGUnited States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Michael L. Taylor filed this action on May 10, 2011. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before the magistrate judge on June 1 and 9, 2011. (Dkt. Nos. 8, 9.) On March 14, 2012, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation that addressed the disputed issues. The court has taken the matter under submission without oral argument.

Having reviewed the entire file, the court affirms the decision of the Commissioner.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On June 19, 2007, Taylor filed an application for disability insurance benefits, alleging an onset date of January 22, 2007. Administrative Record ("AR") 21, 117-21. The application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. AR 21, 63-64. Taylor requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). AR 76. On May 12, 2009, the ALJ conducted a hearing at which Taylor, a medical expert, and a vocational expert testified. AR 37-62. On September 15, 2009, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 21-29. On March 15, 2011, the Appeals Council denied the request for review. AR 1-3. This action followed.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this court reviews the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. The decision will be disturbed only if it is not supported by substantial evidence, or if it is based upon the application of improper legal standards. Moncada v. Chater, 60 F.3d 521, 523 (9th Cir. 1995) (per curiam); Drouin v. Sullivan, 966 F.2d 1255, 1257 (9th Cir. 1992).

"Substantial evidence" means "more than a mere scintilla but less than a preponderance -- it is such relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support the conclusion." Moncada, 60 F.3d at 523. In determining whether substantial evidence exists to support the Commissioner's decision, the court examines the administrative record as a whole, considering adverse as well as supporting evidence. Drouin, 966 F.2d at 1257. When the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the court must defer to the Commissioner's decision. Moncada, 60 F.3d at 523.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Disability

A person qualifies as disabled and is eligible for benefits, "only if his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy." Barnhart v. Thomas, 540 U.S. 20, 21-22, 124 S. Ct. 376, 157 L. Ed. 2d 333 (2003).

B. The ALJ's Findings

The ALJ found that Taylor has the severe impairments of "degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine (without stenosis or myelopathy), and history of fractured left wrist sp January 31, 2008 scaphoid fusion." AR 23. He has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work, "but he cannot crawl, climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, or work at unprotected heights; and he should perform less than frequent handling and fingering activities with his left (non-dominant) upper extremity." AR 25. Taylor is unable to ...


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