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Laclaire Duff v. Michael J. Astrue

August 28, 2012

LACLAIRE DUFF, 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 REVERSING DECISION OF COMMISSIONER AND REMANDING FOR FURTHER PROCEEDINGS

PROCEEDINGS

On February 2, 2012, Laclaire Duff ("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 ("SSI") disability benefits. The Commissioner filed an Answer on May 22, 2012. On August 14, 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 must be reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings in accordance with this Memorandum and Order and with law.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is a 49 year old female who applied for Supplemental Security Income benefits on June 30, 2008, alleging disability beginning November 14, 2006. (AR 9.) Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since June 30, 2008, the date of the application. (AR 11.)

Plaintiff's claim was denied initially on September 22, 2008. (AR 9.) Plaintiff filed a timely request for hearing, which was held before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Wendy Weber on March 10, 2010, in Orange, California. (AR 9, 251-72.) Claimant appeared and testified at the hearing, and was represented by counsel. (AR 9.) Medical expert Arnold Ostrow, M.D., and vocational expert ("VE") Joseph H. Torres, also appeared and testified at the hearing. (AR 9.) The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on April 9, 2010. (AR 9-19.) The Appeals Council denied review on December 8, 2011. (AR 2-4.)

DISPUTED ISSUES

As reflected in the Joint Stipulation, Plaintiff raises only the following disputed issue as the basis for reversal and remand:

1. Whether the ALJ properly determined that Plaintiff could perform alternative work activity.

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 ...


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