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Alicia Rodriguez v. Michael J. Astrue

November 30, 2012

ALICIA RODRIGUEZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Alicia Rodriguez filed this action on January 4, 2012. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before the magistrate judge on January 13 and 18, 2012. (Dkt. Nos. 7, 9.) On September 4, 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 affirms the decision of the Commissioner.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On October 14, 2009, Rodriguez filed an application for supplemental security income. Administrative Record ("AR") 21, 125-27. Rodriguez alleged a disability onset date of April 1, 2007. AR 21, 125. The application was denied initially and on reconsideration. AR 21, 55-56. Rodriguez requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). AR 75. On April 7, 2011, the ALJ conducted a hearing at which Rodriguez and a vocational expert testified. AR 39-54. The ALJ granted Rodriguez's request to hold the record open for 30 days to obtain updated treatment records and records from Colton Valley Medical Care, Inc. ("Colton Valley"). AR 46, 54. After the 30-day period expired, Rodriguez submitted additional records on June 8, 2011. AR 242-425. On June 24, 2011, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 15-29. On November 30, 2011, the Appeals Council denied Rodriguez's request for review. AR 1-5. 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 Rodriguez has the medically determinable impairments of depression and lumbosacral strain/sprain. AR 23. She does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that has significantly limited her ability to perform basic work-related activities for 12 consecutive months. Id. The ALJ concluded that Rodriguez has not been under a disability within the meaning of the Social Security Act since October 14, 2009, the date she filed her application. AR 21, 29.

C. Treating Physician

Rodriguez contends the ALJ did not properly consider the opinion of her treating physician at Colton Valley. Because the physician's name is unknown, this opinion refers to ...


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