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Jesse D. Rine v. Michael J. Astrue

September 17, 2012

JESSE D. RINE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Jesse D. Rine filed this action on September 23, 2011. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before the magistrate judge on October 27, 2011 and April 20, 2012. (Dkt. Nos. 6, 14.) On July 9, 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 remands this matter to the Commissioner for proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On January 15, 2009, Rine filed an application for disability insurance benefits. Administrative Record ("AR") 18, 53. On January 23, 2009, Rine filed an application for supplemental security income. AR 18, 54. In both applications, he alleged a disability onset date of December 6, 2006. AR 18. The applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. AR 18, 55-56. Rine requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). AR 77-78. On November 9, 2010, the ALJ conducted a hearing at which Rine, his mother, and a vocational expert testified. AR 30-52. On December 2, 2010, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 18-24. On July 27, 2011, the Appeals Counsel denied Rine's 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 thereby eligible for such 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) (citation and quotation marks omitted).

B. The ALJ's Findings

The ALJ found that Rine has the severe impairments of bipolar disorder, NOS and polysubstance/alcohol abuse. AR 20. Rine's mental impairment does not meet or equal a listing 12.04. His drug/alcohol abuse meets listing 12.09, but the drug/alcohol addiction is material to a finding of disability. AR 24. Rine is ineligible for benefits based on his drug/alcohol addiction. Id. Rine has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels, except he has mild to moderate restriction of activities of daily living, mild to moderate difficulties in maintaining social functioning, and mild to moderate difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence and pace, and no episodes of decompensation. AR 22. Absent drug/alcohol abuse, he can perform basic unskilled work. Id. He can perform his past relevant work as a truck driver, maintenance laborer. AR 23. There are also other jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that he can perform. Id.

C. Treating Psychiatrist

Rine contends the ALJ erred by failing to give specific and legitimate reasons for rejecting the opinion of his ...


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