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Steve Cannon v. Michael J. Astrue

February 25, 2013

STEVE CANNON,
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 Steve Cannon filed a complaint on July 19, 2012. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before the magistrate judge on August 8 and 9, 2012. (Dkt. Nos. 8, 9.) The parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS") on February 15, 2013, that addressed the disputed issues in the case. The court has taken the JS 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 January 27, 2010, Cannon filed an application for disability insurance benefits alleging an onset date of October 31, 2008. Administrative Record ("AR") 17. The application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. AR 53-54. Cannon requested a hearing. On April 29, 2011, an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") conducted a hearing at which Cannon, a medical expert and a vocational expert testified. AR 34-52. On May 23, 2011, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 14-24. On May 3, 2012, the Appeals Council denied review. AR 1-3. This lawsuit followed.

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." Vasquez v. Astrue, 572 F.3d 586, 591 (9th Cir. 2009); 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 is eligible for 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 Cannon met the insured status requirements through December 31, 2011. AR 19. Cannon had the severe impairments of hypertension, obesity and degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine. Id. He had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work as follows: Cannon "can lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; stand and/or walk (with normal breaks) for a total of 6 hours of an 8-hour day; sit (with normal breaks) for a total of 6 hours of an 8-hour day; and perform posturals occasionally." AR 20. Although Cannon cannot perform any past relevant work, the ALJ found there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that he can perform such as mail clerk and arcade attendant. AR 22-23.

C. Credibility "To determine whether a claimant's testimony regarding subjective pain or symptoms is credible, an ALJ must engage in a two-step analysis." Lingenfelter v. Astrue, 504 F.3d 1028, ...


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