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Cruz Lobato v. Michael J. Astrue

November 30, 2012

CRUZ LOBATO,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Margaret A. Nagle United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff filed a Complaint on September 14, 2011, seeking review of the denial by the Social Security Commissioner ("Commissioner") of plaintiff's application for a period of disability ("POD") and disability insurance benefits ("DIB"). On October 4, 2011, the parties consented to proceed before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). On August 7, 2012, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation, in which: plaintiff seeks an order reversing the Commissioner's decision and awarding benefits or, in the alternative, remanding the matter for further administrative proceedings; and defendant seeks an order affirming the Commissioner's decision or, in the alternative, remanding the matter for further administrative proceedings. The Court has taken the parties' Joint Stipulation under submission without oral argument.

SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS

On October 31, 2006, plaintiff filed an application for POD and DIB. (Administrative Record ("A.R.") 81-85.) In the disability report accompanying her application, plaintiff alleged shoulder injury, learning disorder, stress, and dyslexia as impairments and asserted that she cannot work due to these impairments, because she cannot perform assigned tasks and cannot read and write. (A.R. 94.) At the reconsideration level, plaintiff additionally alleged that she suffers from depression, which commenced in April 2006. (A.R. 94, 135.)

The Commissioner denied plaintiff's claim initially, and upon reconsideration. (A.R. 33-36, 42-45.) On July 3, 2008, plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, testified at a hearing before Administrative Law Judge Barry S. Brown ("ALJ Brown"). (A.R. 15-30.) On October 8, 2008, ALJ Brown denied plaintiff's claim. (A.R. 4-13.) Subsequently, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review of ALJ Brown's decision. (A.R. 1-3.)

On January 7, 2009, plaintiff sought review in this Court, which remanded the case for further proceedings in a September 8, 2010 Order ("Remand Order").*fn1 (A.R. 450-70.)

On September 20, 2010, the Appeals Council effectuated the Court's Remand Order, and remanded the matter to the ALJ for further actions consistent with the Order. (A.R. 446-48.)

On April 4 and May 5, 2011, a remand hearing was held before ALJ Joseph Lisiecki ("ALJ"). (A.R. 425-32, 433-45.) Plaintiff, who was represented by an attorney, appeared and testified at both hearings. (Id.) At the April hearing, Stephen Wells, a medical expert, testified. (A.R. 425-32.) At the May hearing, Craig C. Rath, a medical expert, and Alan L. Ey, a vocational expert, also testified. (A.R. 433-45.) On June 13, 2011, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. (A.R. 376-85.)

SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

The ALJ found that plaintiff last met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act on December 31, 2005, and that she had not engaged in substantial gainful activity during the period from her alleged onset date of October 30, 2000, through December 31, 2005, her date last insured ("DLI"). (A.R. 379.) The ALJ also found that, through the DLI, plaintiff has the severe impairment of "attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, inattentive type" ("ADHD").*fn2 (Id.) The ALJ further found that, through the DLI, plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the criteria of an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1, the Listing of Impairments. (A.R. 380.)

After reviewing the record, the ALJ determined that plaintiff has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to "perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following non-exertional limitations: [plaintiff] is precluded from working at unprotected heights or around dangerous or fast-moving machinery; [plaintiff] must not be responsible for the safety operations of others; and [plaintiff] requires the ability to learn tasks by example, not by reading." (A.R. 381.)

The ALJ found that plaintiff's past relevant work ("PRW") as a Cleaner, Commercial or Institutional ("Cleaner") does not require the performance of work-related activities precluded by her RFC. (A.R. 384.) Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, since October 30, 2000, the alleged onset date, through December 31, 2005, the DLI. (A.R. 385.)

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. ยง 405(g), this Court reviews the Commissioner's decision to determine whether it is free from legal error and supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence is "'such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'" Id. (citation omitted). The "evidence must be more than a mere scintilla but not necessarily a preponderance." Connett v. Barnhart, 340 F.3d 871, 873 (9th Cir. 2003). While inferences from the record can constitute ...


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