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Ralph Blake James v. Michael J. Astrue

September 26, 2012

RALPH BLAKE JAMES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



ORDER

Plaintiff seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying his applications for a period of disability and Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. The parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment. For the reasons discussed below, the court grants the Commissioner's motion and denies plaintiff's motion.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff protectively applied for a period of disability, DIB and SSI, on July 16, 2008, alleging that he had been disabled since June 13, 2008. Administrative Record ("AR") 53-54. Plaintiff's applications were initially denied on December 9, 2008, and upon reconsideration on February 27, 2009. Id. at 58, 63, 71, 74. On January 28, 2010, a hearing was held before administrative law judge ("ALJ") Richard J. Kallsnick. Id. at 25. Plaintiff was represented by counsel at the hearing, at which he and a vocational expert ("VE") testified. Id. at 25-45.

On February 26, 2010, the ALJ issued a decision finding that plaintiff was not disabled under sections 216(i), 223(d), and 1614(a)(3)(A) of the Act.*fn1 Id. at 13, 20. The ALJ made the following specific findings:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2013.

2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since June 13, 2008, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq.).

3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: Depressive Disorder NOS, lumbar degenerative disk disease, and osteoarthritis (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)). ...

4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).

5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform the full range of light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b). He can lift/carry 20 pounds occasionally or 10 pounds frequently. In an 8-hour workday, he can stand/walk or sit for 6 hours with normal breaks. Stooping is occasional. The claimant has no work-related limitation from his psychological symptoms and he can remain attentive provided he uses his medications appropriately.

6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965). ...

7. The claimant was born [in] 1960 and was 48 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 404.1563 and 416.963).

8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564 and 416.964).

9. Transferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability because applying the Medical-Vocational Rules directly supports a finding of "not disabled," whether or not the claimant has transferable job skills (See SSR 82-41 and 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).

10. Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform (20 CFR 404.1569, 404.1569(a), 416.969, and 416.969(a)). ...

11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from June 13, 2008 through the date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(g) and 416.920(g)).

Id. at 15-20.

Plaintiff requested that the Appeals Council review the ALJ's decision. Id. at 8. However, on February 16, 2011, the Appeals Council denied review, leaving the ALJ's decision as the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security. Id. at 3.

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

The Commissioner's decision that a claimant is not disabled will be upheld if the findings

of fact are supported by substantial evidence in the record and the proper legal standards were applied. Schneider v. Comm'r of the Soc. Sec. Admin., 223 F.3d 968, 973 (9th Cir. 2000); Morgan v. Comm'r of the Soc. Sec. Admin., 169 F.3d 595, 599 (9th Cir. 1999); Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1097 (9th Cir. 1999).

The findings of the Commissioner as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, are conclusive. See Miller v. Heckler, 770 F.2d 845, 847 (9th Cir. 1985). Substantial evidence is more than a mere scintilla, but less than a preponderance. Saelee v. Chater, 94 F.3d 520, 521 (9th Cir. 1996). "'It means such evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'" Richardson ...


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