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Robert J. Martin v. Michael J. Astrue

October 29, 2012

ROBERT J. MARTIN, 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 Robert J. Martin filed this action on November 7, 2011. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before the magistrate judge on December 2 and 19, 2011. (Dkt. Nos. 8, 9.) On August 23, 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

Martin filed applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income on October 26 and 27, 2009, respectively. Administrative Record ("AR") 27, 136-40. In both applications, he alleged a disability onset date of April 1, 2007. AR 27, 136, 138. The applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. AR 27, 107-10. Martin requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). AR 124. On October 19, 2010, the ALJ conducted a hearing at which Martin, a medical expert, and a vocational expert testified. AR 83-106. On November 23, 2010, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 27-34. On September 7, 2011, the Appeals Council denied Martin's request for review. AR 1-6. 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).

"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 Martin has the severe impairments of lumbar spine degenerative disc disease, obesity, and impairments in the bilateral upper extremity. AR 29-30. His impairments do not meet or equal a listing. Id. He has the residual functional capacity to perform light work, with the following limitations: sit, stand or walk for 6 hours in an 8 hour day, occasionally climb stairs, occasionally balance, kneel and crawl, frequently bend and stoop, never climb ladders, scaffolds, or ropes, occasionally use lower extremities for pushing, pulling, and operating foot controls, and frequently use ...


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