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Cecil Sterling v. Michael J. Astrue

February 15, 2013

CECIL STERLING,
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 Cecil Sterling filed a complaint on June 15, 2012. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before the magistrate judge on July 9 and 13, 2012. (Dkt. Nos. 8, 9.) The parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS") on December 31, 2012, that addressed the disputed issues in the case. The Commissioner filed the certified administrative record ("AR"). The court has taken the Joint Stipulation under submission without oral argument.

Having reviewed the entire file, the court reverses and remands this matter to the Commissioner for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On April 13, 2009, Sterling filed an application for supplemental security income benefits, alleging an onset date of November 1, 2002.*fn1 AR 10. The application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. AR 52-53. Sterling requested a hearing before an ALJ. On January 19, 2011, the ALJ conducted a hearing at which Sterling and a vocational expert ("VE") testified. AR 22-51. On January 25, 2011, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 7-18. On March 7, 2012, the Appeals Council denied the request for review. AR 1-3.

II.

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 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, "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. 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. 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.

III.

EVALUATION OF DISABILITY

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 ...


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