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Kathryn Ann Dunnagan v. Carolyn W. Colvin

May 3, 2013

KATHRYN ANN DUNNAGAN, 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 Kathryn Ann Dunnagan filed this action on January 25, 2012. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before the magistrate judge on February 14 and 15, 2012. (Dkt. Nos. 6, 7.) On November 21, 2012, 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 the decision of the Commissioner and remands for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On March 27, 2008, Dunnagan filed applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. Administrative Record ("AR") 27. Dunnagan alleged a disability onset date of June 1, 2003. AR 27, 167. The applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. AR 27, 85-88. Dunnagan requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). AR 101-02. On June 17, 2010, the ALJ conducted a hearing at which Dunnagan and a vocational expert testified.*fn1 AR 46-79. On July 13, 2010, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 24-37. On November 21, 2011, the Appeals Council denied Dunnagan's request for review. AR 1-6. 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 Dunnagan has the severe impairments of Crohn's disease and depression. AR 29. She does not meet or equal a listed impairment. Id. She has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to lift and carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, and stand, walk or sit 6 hours in an 8-hour workday. She has mild limitations in understanding and remembering tasks, sustaining concentration and persistence, socially interacting with the public, and adapting to workplace changes. AR 30. She is capable of performing her past relevant work as a waitress. AR 36. Alternatively, there are other jobs that exist in the national economy that she can perform ...


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