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Joan Cutler, O.B.O. v. Michael J. Astrue

February 5, 2013

JOAN CUTLER, O.B.O. MICHAEL CUTLER (DECEASED) 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

Joan Cutler, o.b.o. Michael Cutler (deceased), filed this action on April 19, 2012. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before the magistrate judge on May 2 and 14, 2012. (Dkt. Nos. 8, 9.) On October 25, 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 January 8, 2009, Michael Cutler filed applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. Administrative Record ("AR") 10, 120-25. He alleged a disability onset date of March 15, 2006. AR 10, 120, 124. The applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. AR 10, 43-46. Michael Cutler passed away on May 20, 2009.*fn1 AR 10, 130. His mother, Joan Cutler, requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). AR 60. On September 20, 2010, the ALJ conducted a hearing at which Ms. Cutler and a vocational expert testified. AR 22-42. On November 4, 2010, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 7-18. On February 9, 2012, the Appeals Council denied the 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 Michael Cutler had the severe impairments of non-insulin dependent diabetes with possible neuropathy, obesity, and mild degenerative disk disease. AR 12. He did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or equaled a listing. AR 14. He had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work and could lift and carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, stand, walk and/or sit for six hours in an 8-hour workday with normal breaks, and do postural activities occasionally. Id. He could not climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds, and he needed to avoid concentrated exposure to extreme heat, cold and ...


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