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Bryce Kelly v. Michael J. Astrue

March 29, 2013

BRYCE KELLY,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barry Ted Moskowitz, Chief Judge United States District Court

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND GRANTING DEFENDANT'S CROSS-MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Plaintiff and Defendant have filed cross-motions for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion is DENIED and Defendant's motion is GRANTED.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On July 24, 2007, Plaintiff filed applications for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act ("Act"), and for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") benefits under Title XVI of the Act. (Tr. 220-226.) Plaintiff alleged disability as of March 1, 2003. After a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") on June 17, 2009, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. (Tr. 99-105.) Plaintiff filed a request for review, which the Appeals Council granted. (Tr. 109-11.) The Appeals Council remanded Plaintiff's case for a new hearing and directed the ALJ to obtain any available updated treatment records, further evaluate Plaintiff's subjective complaints, and provide rationale in accordance with disability regulations pertaining to the evaluation of symptoms, and, if warranted, obtain supplemental evidence from a vocational expert. (Tr. 110.)

On remand, ALJ Peter J. Valentino held a hearing on July 27, 2010. In a decision dated August 20, 2010, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled from the alleged onset date of March 1, 2003, through the date of the decision. (Tr. 13-23.) On August 31, 2011, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (Tr. 4-9.) In this action, Plaintiff seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

II. ALJ'S FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS

The ALJ found that Plaintiff was insured for disability insurance benefits through March 31, 2008.

The ALJ found that Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: status-post knife injury to left little finger, mild right carpel tunnel syndrome, degenerative disc disease of the spine without neurologic deficit, mild osteoarthritis of the knees, and hypertension.

The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff's impairment or combination of impairments do not meet or equal any of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.

The ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to perform light work with the following additional limitations: occasional lifting and carrying of twenty pounds, frequent lifting and carrying of ten pounds, precluded from climbing ladders, scaffolds, or ropes, precluded from working at unprotected heights, should not be exposed to concentrated vibration or hazards, and has a limitation with regard to the left hand to occasional fingering but frequent reaching and handling and a limitation in regard to the right hand to frequent handling, reaching, and fingering.

Based on the testimony of a vocational expert ("VE"), the ALJ found that Plaintiff could perform past relevant work as a car lot attendant. The ALJ also found that there are other jobs existing in the national economy that Plaintiff is able to form, including furniture rental clerk (DOT No. 295.357-018) and usher (DOT No. 344.677-014).

Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has not been under a "disability" as defined in the Social Security Act, at any time from his alleged onset date of March 1, 2003, through the date of the ALJ's decision. *fn1

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The Commissioner's denial of benefits may be set aside if it is based on legal error or is not supported by substantial evidence. Jamerson v. Chater, 112 F.3d 1064, 1066 (9th Cir. 1997). Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla but less than a preponderance. Id. Substantial evidence is "relevant evidence which, considering the record as a whole, a reasonable person might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Flatten v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 44 F.3d 1453, 1457 (9th Cir. 1995). If the evidence can reasonably support either ...


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