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Kathleen A. Sifferman v. Carolyn W. Colvin

March 6, 2013

KATHLEEN A. SIFFERMAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John E. Mcdermott United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER AFFIRMING DECISION OF COMMISSIONER PROCEEDINGS

On July 23, 2012, Kathleen A. Sifferman ("Plaintiff" or "Claimant") filed a Complaint seeking review of the decision by the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner") denying Plaintiff's application for disability benefits under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. On November 13, 2012, the Commissioner filed an Answer to the Complaint. On January 28, 2013, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS") setting forth their positions and the issues in dispute.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), both parties consented to proceed before the undersigned Magistrate Judge. The matter is now ready for decision. After reviewing the pleadings, transcripts, and administrative record ("AR"), the Court concludes that the Commissioner's decision should be affirmed and this case dismissed with prejudice.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed applications for Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance benefits with a protective filing date of July 19, 2005. (AR 76, 123-30.) Plaintiff claims she is disabled due to anxiety, depression, and a sleeping disorder. (AR 148.) Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 30, 2002. (AR 12, 148-49.)

Plaintiff's claim was denied initially on June 7, 2006 (AR 88-92), and on reconsideration on January 12, 2007. (AR 94-98.) Plaintiff filed a timely request for hearing on February 15, 2007. (AR 101.) Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified at a hearing held on January 25, 2008, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") F. Keith Varni. (AR 41-56.) The ALJ issued an undated decision denying benefits. (AR 76-84.) On March 18, 2008, Plaintiff filed a timely request for review of the ALJ's decision. (AR 116-18.) On June 20, 2008, the Appeals Council vacated the ALJ's decision and remanded for further proceedings. (AR 85-87.)

The ALJ held a second hearing on March 11, 2009 (AR 57-69), and issued an unfavorable decision on May 22, 2009. (AR 10-18.) The ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the severe impairments of monocular vision, inappropriate somnolence, and a mood disorder, but was capable of performing jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy. (AR 12, 17.) Thus, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act since the date her applications were filed. (AR 18.)

Plaintiff commenced the instant action after the Appeals Council denied her request for review on July 16, 2009. (AR 2-4.) On June 6, 2011, this Court found legal error and reversed and remanded for further proceedings. (AR 802-815.)

This case proceeded to a third hearing before ALJ Michael D. Radensky in San Bernardino, California. (AR 752-501.) Claimant appeared and testified at the hearing. (AR 734.) Medical expert ("ME") Joseph Malancharuvil, Ph.D., and vocational expert ("VE") Troy L. Scott also appeared and testified. (AR 734.) Plaintiff was represented by counsel. (AR 734.)

The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on November 4, 2011. (AR 734-736.) The Appeals Council denied review on May 23, 2012. (AR 715-718.)

DISPUTED ISSUES

As reflected in the Joint Stipulation, there are two disputed issues:

1. Whether the ALJ properly considered the medical evidence as contained in the treating opinion from Jesus Bucardo, M.D.; and

2. Whether the ALJ properly considered the testimony of Plaintiff.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the ALJ's decision to determine whether the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence and free of legal error. Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996); DeLorme v. Sullivan, 924 F.2d 841, 846 (9th Cir. 1991) (ALJ's disability determination must be supported by substantial evidence and based on the proper legal standards).

Substantial evidence means "'more than a mere scintilla,' but less than a preponderance." Saelee v. Chater, 94 F.3d 520, 521-22 (9th Cir. 1996) (quoting Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a ...


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