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Glenda Davis v. Michael J. Astrue

December 19, 2012

GLENDA DAVIS,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jennifer L. Thurston United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER DIRECTING ENTRY OF JUDGMENT IN FAVOR OF DEFENDANT MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, AND AGAINST PLAINTIFF GLENDA DAVIS

Glenda Davis ("Plaintiff") asserts she is entitled to benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act. Plaintiff argues the administrative law judge ("ALJ") erred in evaluating the credibility of her subjective complaints. Therefore, Plaintiff seeks judicial review of the decision denying her claim for benefits. For the reasons set forth below, the administrative decision is AFFIRMED.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY*fn1

Plaintiff filed an application for benefits on April 6, 2005, alleging disability beginning October 9, 2004. AR at 24, 40. The Social Security Administration denied her claim initially and upon reconsideration. Id. at 24. After requesting a hearing, Plaintiff testified before an ALJ on March 7, 2007. Id. at 325. The ALJ determined Plaintiff was not disabled under the Social Security Act, and issued an order denying benefits on September 29, 2007. Id. at 24-31.

The Appeals Council denied 2

Plaintiff's request for review on January 31, 2008. Id. at 12-14. Therefore, the ALJ's determination 3 became the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"). Plaintiff initiated a 4 civil action seeking judicial review of the decision on April 14, 2008. (Doc. 2). 5

While Plaintiff's request for review was pending before the Appeals Council, Plaintiff filed a 6 second application for benefits on October 24, 2007. AR at 569-72. Again, Plaintiff alleged disability 7 beginning October 9, 2004. Id. at 569. The second application was denied initially on January 31, 8 2008, and upon reconsideration on April 30, 2008. Id. at 278. 9

On October 14, 2008, the District Court remanded the first-filed action pursuant to sentence six of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) because the recording of the hearing held on March 7, 2007, was incomplete. (Doc. 12). After holding a hearing on February 13, 2009, the ALJ consolidated Plaintiff's first application and second application because she "alleg[ed] the same impairments and the same alleged onset date of October 9, 2004." AR at 278. Again, the ALJ determined Plaintiff was not disabled under the Social Security Act and issued an order denying benefits on June 25, 2009. Id. at 278-86. The Appeals Council "found no reason . . . to assume jurisdiction" over the opinion. Id. at 269. Thus, the ALJ's findings became the decision of the Commissioner. Id. at 270.

On October 4, 2011, the Court granted the Commissioner's motion to re-open the action following the conclusion of the remand proceedings. (Doc. 24).

STANDARD OF REVIEW

District courts have a limited scope of judicial review for disability claims after a decision by the Commissioner to deny benefits under the Social Security Act. When reviewing findings of fact, such as whether a claimant was disabled, the Court must determine whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence or is based on legal error. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The ALJ's determination that the claimant is not disabled must be upheld by the Court if the proper legal standards were applied and the findings are supported by substantial evidence. See Sanchez v. Sec'y of Health & Human Serv., 812 F.2d 509, 510 (9th Cir. 1987).

Substantial evidence is "more than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (quoting Consol. Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197 (1938)). The record as a whole 2 must be considered, because "[t]he court must consider both evidence that supports and evidence that 3 detracts from the ALJ's conclusion." Jones v. Heckler, 760 F.2d 993, 995 (9th Cir. 1985). 4

DISABILITY BENEFITS

To qualify for benefits under the Social Security Act, Plaintiff must establish she is unable to 6 engage in substantial gainful activity due to a medically determinable physical or mental impairment 7 that has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months. 42 U.S.C. 8 § 1382c(a)(3)(A). An individual shall be considered to have a disability only if: 9

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, regardless of whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or whether he would be hired if he applied for work.

42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(B). The burden of proof is on a claimant to establish disability. Terry v. Sullivan, 903 F.2d 1273, 1275 (9th Cir. 1990). When a claimant establishes a prima facie case of disability, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to prove the claimant is able to engage in other substantial gainful employment. Maounis v. Heckler, 738 F.2d 1032, 1034 (9th Cir. 1984).

DETERMINATION OF DISABILITY

To achieve uniform decisions, the Commissioner established a sequential five-step process for evaluating a claimant's alleged disability. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520 (a)-(f). The process requires the ALJ to determine whether Plaintiff (1) engaged in substantial gainful activity during the period of alleged disability, (2) had medically determinable severe impairments (3) that met or equaled one of the listed impairments set forth in 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1; and whether Plaintiff (4) had the residual functional capacity to perform to past relevant work or (5) the ability to perform other work existing in ...


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