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Preston Grisby v. Michael J. Astrue

July 24, 2012

PRESTON GRISBY,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Margaret A. Nagle United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff filed a Complaint on August 4, 2011, seeking review of the denial by the Social Security Commissioner ("Commissioner") of plaintiff's application for supplemental security income benefits ("SSI"). On September 1, 2011, the parties consented to proceed before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). The parties filed a Joint Stipulation on June 14, 2012, in which: plaintiff seeks an order reversing the Commissioner's decision and awarding benefits or, in the alternative, remanding the matter for further administrative proceedings; and defendant seeks an order affirming the Commissioner's decision or, in the alternative, remanding the matter for further administrative proceedings. The Court has taken the parties' Joint Stipulation under submission without oral argument.

SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS

On October 27, 2003, plaintiff filed an application for SSI, alleging an inability to work since January 1, 2001, due to mental illness, hearing voices, depression, and anxiety. (Administrative Record ("A.R.") 17, 86, 109.) Plaintiff has no past relevant work experience. (A.R. 23.)

Plaintiff's claim was denied initially, upon reconsideration, and, following a hearing, by Administrative Law Judge Eric Benham ("ALJ Benham") in a written decision dated November 17, 2006. (A.R. 17, 39-46.) On November 27, 2006, plaintiff filed a request for review of ALJ Benham's decision (A.R. 60), and on May 30, 2008, the Appeals Council reversed and remanded for further administrative proceedings (A.R. 63- 65). *fn1

On July 7, 2009, a remand hearing was held before ALJ Robert S. Eisman (the "ALJ"). (A.R. 17.) On July 24, 2009, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. (A.R. 17-26.) On June 22, 2011, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review of that decision. (A.R. 5-8.)

SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

In his July 2009 decision, the ALJ incorporated by reference the evaluation of evidence contained in ALJ Benham's November 2006 decision. (A.R. 17.) The ALJ found that plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since October 27, 2003, the application date. (A.R. 19.) The ALJ further found that plaintiff suffers from the "severe" impairments of borderline intellectual functioning and depressive disorder, not otherwise specified. (Id.) He concluded that such impairments, however, did not meet or medically equal the criteria of an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1, the Listing of Impairments. (Id.)

The ALJ determined that plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to:

perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following non-exertional limitations: he must avoid concentrated exposure to hazardous machinery, unprotected heights or other high risk, hazardous or unsafe conditions; he can perform work that is limited to simple, routine and repetitive tasks in a low stress environment, which is defined as work that does not require more than occasional decisionmaking, judgment or changes in work setting; and he is not required to have more than occasional interaction with the public and co-workers, and is not required to perform any more than occasional tandem tasks with co-workers.

(A.R. 21.)

The ALJ determined that plaintiff has no past relevant work history, but having considered plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, and in reliance on testimony from a vocational expert, the ALJ found that jobs exist in significant numbers in the national economy that plaintiff can perform, such as a laundry worker, dining room attendant, cleaner, and ironer. (A.R. 24-25.) Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, since October 27, 2003, through the date of the ALJ's decision. (A.R. 26.)

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. ยง 405(g), this Court reviews the Commissioner's decision to determine whether it is free from legal error and supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence is "'such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'" Id. (citation omitted). The "evidence must be more than a mere scintilla but not necessarily a preponderance." Connett v. Barnhart, 340 F.3d 871, 873 (9th Cir. 2003). While inferences from the record can constitute ...


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