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Charles Ladd v. Michael J. Astrue

February 20, 2013

CHARLES LADD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: United States Magistrate Judge Alicia G. Rosenberg

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Charles Ladd filed this action on February 23, 2012. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before the magistrate judge on March 7 and 12, 2012. (Dkt. Nos. 7, 9.) On December 26, 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 20, 2008, Ladd filed an application for disability insurance and supplemental security income benefits alleging an onset date of December 13, 1994. AR 9. The applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration. AR 51-54. Ladd requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). On November 18, 2009, the ALJ conducted a hearing at which Ladd and a vocational expert ("VE") testified. AR 26-50. On February 8, 2010, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 6-21. On December 19, 2011, the Appeals Council denied the request for review. AR 1-3. 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).

B. The ALJ's Findings

The ALJ found that, for purposes of the application for disability insurance benefits, Ladd's date last insured was June 30, 1998. AR 9. Ladd had previously been found not disabled by a decision dated May 21, 1998. The prior decision was final and no new evidence had been submitted for that prior period. Therefore, the period of adjudication is May 22 through June 30, 1998. Id. During this period, there is a presumption of continuing non-disability, which had not been rebutted by Ladd. Id. The ALJ found that Ladd had the severe impairments of disc degeneration and disc bulging in the cervical and lumbar spines and borderline intellectual functioning. AR 12. He had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform the full range of ...


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