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Petey L. Snowden v. Carolyn W. Colvin

March 29, 2013

PETEY L. SNOWDEN,
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 Petey L. Snowden filed this action on July 19, 2012. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before the magistrate judge on August 23 and 29, 2012. (Dkt. Nos. 8, 9.) On March 27, 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 reverses and remands the decision of the Commissioner for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On December 10, 2008, Snowden filed an application for supplemental security income, alleging an onset date of September 1, 2005. Administrative Record ("AR") 21. The application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. AR 21, 60-61. Snowden requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). AR 16. On February 1, 2011, the ALJ conducted a hearing at which Snowden, a psychological expert and a vocational expert testified. AR 33-59. On March 8, 2011, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 18-29. On May 21, 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 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 Snowden has the following severe combination of impairments: psychotic disorder, nos with schizophrenic features; and personality disorder. AR 23. Snowden has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform work "restricted to moderately complex tasks of up to 4 to 5 steps of instruction in habituated setting and to work that is preferably object oriented." AR 26. Snowden "is precluded from working in safety related occupations and is precluded from operating hazardous machinery." Id. There is no past relevant work. AR 27. However, there ...


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