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Joshua C. Alcazar v. Michael J. Astrue

February 21, 2013

JOSHUA C. ALCAZAR, 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

Joshua C. Alcazar filed this action on May 25, 2012. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before the magistrate judge on June 14 and July 5, 2012. (Dkt. Nos. 11, 12.) On December 18, 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 reverses the decision of the Commissioner and remands for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On October 20, 2009, Alcazar filed an application for supplemental security income and alleged a disability onset date of May 7, 2004. Administrative Record ("AR") 10. The application was denied initially. AR 50. Alcazar requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). On December 20, 2010, the ALJ conducted a hearing at which Alcazar and a vocational expert testified. AR 25-49. On January 26, 2011, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 7-16. On April 24, 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 Alcazar had the severe impairments of lumbar degenerative disc disease, below the knee amputation and hepatitis C. AR 12. He did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or equaled a listing. AR 12-13. He had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform sedentary work except that he is wheelchair bound and can lift and/or carry ten pounds frequently and twenty pounds occasionally. AR 13. He has no past relevant work, but there are jobs in significant numbers ...


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