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Donald Lee Heard v. Michael J. Astrue

July 19, 2012

DONALD LEE HEARD,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Donald Lee Heard filed a complaint on March 24, 2011. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before the magistrate judge on April 12 and 18, 2011. (Dkt. Nos. 8, 9.) On March 6, 2012, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS") that addressed the disputed issues. The court has taken the matter under submission without oral argument.

Having reviewed the entire file, the court reverses the decision of the Commissioner and remands the matter for an award of benefits.

I.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On March 6, 2008, Heard filed an application for supplemental security income benefits and alleged an onset date of July 15, 2006. Administrative Record ("AR") 21, 140-46. The application was denied. AR 21. Heard requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). AR 89. On July 10, 2009, an ALJ conducted a hearing at which Heard, his mother, and a vocational expert testified.*fn1 AR 29-75. On October 5, 2009, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 21-28. On December 6, 2010, the Appeals Council denied the request for review. AR 4-6. 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).

In this context, "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. Where the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the court must defer to the decision of the Commissioner. 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 ...


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