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Diane L. Mcneill v. Carolyn W. Colvin

February 21, 2013

DIANE L. MCNEILL,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Paul L. Abrams United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

I.

PROCEEDINGS

Plaintiff filed this action on February 28, 2012, seeking review of the Commissioner's denial of her application for Disability Insurance Benefits. The parties filed Consents to proceed before the undersigned Magistrate Judge on March 12, 2012, and March 13, 2012. The parties filed a Joint Stipulation on December 21, 2012, that addresses their positions concerning the disputed issues in the case. The Court has taken the Joint Stipulation under submission without oral argument. / /

II.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was born on March 4, 1955. [Administrative Record ("AR") at 95.] She has an eleventh grade education, and has past relevant work experience as a retail sales clerk and a retail store department manager. [AR at 114, 119, 787.]

On November 8, 2001, plaintiff filed her application for Disability Insurance Benefits, alleging that she has been disabled since May 31, 1988, due to lupus, fibromyalgia, interstitial cystitis, irritable bowel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, sensitivity to light, and other impairments. [AR at 95-97, 112-21.] After her application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). [AR at 45-49, 51-55.] A hearing was held on March 12, 2003, at which time plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified on her own behalf. [AR at 615-49.] On July 10, 2003, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled. [AR at 36-44.] On December 16, 2005, the Appeals Council remanded the matter for further consideration by the ALJ. [AR at 76-77.] A second ALJ held a hearing on April 6, 2006, at which time plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified on her own behalf. [AR at 650-84.] On October 16, 2006, that ALJ (the "2006 ALJ") determined that plaintiff was not disabled. [AR at 13-19, 650.] The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review on June 9, 2008. [AR at 5-8.] Plaintiff then filed a civil action in this Court in Case No. ED CV 08-1062-PLA, which resulted in a Judgment of Remand pursuant to a Stipulation to Voluntary Remand. [AR at 706-09.]

On remand, a third ALJ held a hearing on January 14, 2010, at which time a medical expert and a vocational expert testified. [AR at 747-78.] On March 25, 2010, the third ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled. [AR at 688-95.] Plaintiff then filed a second civil action in this Court in Case No. ED CV 10-1090-PLA. On March 14, 2011, the Court entered judgment for plaintiff and remanded the case back to the Commissioner for further proceedings. [AR at 802-18.] On May 6, 2011, the Appeals Council remanded the case back to an ALJ. [AR at 801.] On September 22, 2011, the third ALJ held another hearing, at which time plaintiff again appeared with counsel and testified on her own behalf. A different vocational expert also testified. [AR at 822-54.] On November 18, 2011, the third ALJ (the "ALJ") again determined that plaintiff was not disabled. [AR at 782-89.] This action followed.

III.

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 if 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, the term "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; see also Drouin, 966 F.2d at 1257. 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; Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989). 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; Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039-40 (9th Cir. 1995); Drouin, 966 F.2d at 1258.

IV.

THE EVALUATION OF ...


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