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Deborah Potter v. Michael J. Astrue

December 17, 2012

DEBORAH POTTER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Paul L. Abrams United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

I.

PROCEEDINGS Plaintiff filed this action on February 15, 2012, seeking review of the Commissioner's denial of her application for Disability Insurance Benefits. The parties filed Consents to proceed before the undersigned Magistrate Judge on March 28, 2012. Pursuant to the Court's Order, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation on December 5, 2012, that addresses their positions concerning the disputed issues in the case. The Court has taken the Joint Stipulation under submission without oral argument.

II.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was born on April 6, 1957. [Administrative Record ("AR") at 95.] She completed two years of college, and has past relevant work experience as a telephone clerk and a debt collector. [AR at 219, 224.]

On January 10, 2009, plaintiff filed her application for Disability Insurance Benefits, alleging that she has been unable to work since July 4, 2008, due to migraine headaches, arthritis, acid reflux, problems with her back (including stiffness, spasms, scoliosis, disc herniations, and degenerative narrowing of her spinal canal), and problems with her knees, left foot, and right arm. [AR at 95-96, 115-18, 197-98, 217-26.] After her application was denied initially and on reconsideration, plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). [AR at 115-18, 120-35.] Following two continuances, a hearing was held on November 4, 2010, at which time plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified on her own behalf. [AR at 53-94.] A vocational expert also testified. [AR at 81-83.] A supplemental hearing was held on May 26, 2011, at which time plaintiff again appeared with counsel and testified on her own behalf. A different vocational expert also testified. [AR at 27-52.] On July 29, 2011, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled. [AR at 100-09.] On January 11, 2012, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review. [AR at 1-5, 24.] This action followed.

III.

STANDARD OF REVIEW Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court has authority to review 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); Drouin v. Sullivan, 966 F.2d 1255, 1257 (9th Cir. 1992).

In this context, the term "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; see also Drouin, 966 F.2d at 1257. When 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; Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989). Where the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the Court must defer to the decision of the Commissioner. Moncada, 60 F.3d at 523; Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039-40 (9th Cir. 1995); Drouin, 966 F.2d at 1258.

IV.

THE EVALUATION OF DISABILITY

Persons are "disabled" for purposes of receiving Social Security benefits if they are unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity owing to a physical or mental impairment that is expected to result in death or which has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at ...


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