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Rafaela G. Chiprez v. Carolyn W. Colvin

March 15, 2013

RAFAELA G. CHIPREZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Rafaela G. Chiprez filed this action on July 11, 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.) On March 11, 2013, 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 remands this matter to the Commissioner for proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On November 19, 2009, Chiprez filed applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income benefits, and alleged a disability onset date of October 14, 2008. Administrative Record ("AR") 36. The applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration. AR 74-77. On February 17, 2011, the ALJ conducted a hearing at which Chiprez and a vocational expert testified. AR 54-73. On March 4, 2011, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 33-43. On May 5, 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 Chiprez met the insured status requirements through September 30, 2011. AR 38. Chiprez had the severe impairments of status post knee surgery, lumbosacral strain, and left greater trochanteric bursitis. Id. She had the residual functional capacity to perform light work, "which permits lifting and carrying 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; standing for 6 hours, sitting for 6 hours, and walking for 6 hours a day." AR 39. Chiprez also had "some depression slightly affecting her capability of maintaining attention, concentration and memory." Id. Chiprez was capable of performing her past ...


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