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Don Jose Lamb v. Michael J. Astrue

December 19, 2012

DON JOSE LAMB, 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 Don Jose Lamb filed this action on February 24, 2012. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before the magistrate judge on April 10 and 13, 2012. (Dkt. Nos. 11, 12.) On September 28, 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 May 27, 2009, Lamb filed an application for disability insurance benefits. Administrative Record ("AR") 118-19. On May 28, 2009, Lamb filed an application for supplemental security income. AR 125-131. In both applications, he alleged a disability onset date of December 31, 2001. AR 118, 125. The applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. AR 55-58. Lamb requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). AR 78. On November 2, 2010, the ALJ conducted a hearing at which Lamb, a medical expert and a vocational expert testified. AR 39-54. On November 18, 2010, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 19-29. On January 5, 2012, the Appeals Council denied Lamb'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 Lamb has the medically determinable impairments of mild degenerative changes at L5-S1 with partial sacralization and status post gunshot wound to the lower back. AR 24. Lamb has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform a full range of medium work. AR 27. He ...


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