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Percy Roy Matthews v. Michael J. Astrue

February 4, 2013

PERCY ROY MATTHEWS, 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 Percy Roy Matthews filed this action on December 2, 2011. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before the magistrate judge on January 5 and 13, 2012. (Dkt. Nos. 8, 9.) On October 14, 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 remands this matter to the Commissioner for proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On December 28, 2007, Matthews filed applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income.*fn1 AR 16. Both applications alleged a disability onset date of December 14, 2006. AR 16, 101, 109. The applications were denied. AR 16, 67-68. Matthews requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). AR 74-75. On April 8, 2009, the ALJ conducted a hearing at which Matthews and a vocational expert ("VE") testified. AR 26-66. The ALJ held the record open for thirty days to allow Matthews to submit additional medical records. AR 65. On July 30, 2009, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 13-25. On September 20, 2011, the Appeals Council denied Matthews' 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 that Matthews has the severe impairments of bilateral carpal tunnel (severe on the left and moderate to severe on the right) and bilateral mild upper extremities neuropathy. AR 19. Matthews has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform medium work that involves occasional gross and fine manipulation with his hands. AR 20. He cannot perform his past relevant work. AR 23. There are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that he can perform such as copy messenger, host, and bakery worker on conveyor belt. AR 24-25.

C. Treating Physicians

Matthews contends the ALJ erred by failing to give specific and legitimate reasons for rejecting the opinions of his treating physicians, Dr. Desai, ...


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