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Hernandez v. Colvin

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

October 24, 2013

MARIA HERNANDEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

ALICIA G. ROSENBERG, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Maria Hernandez filed this action on July 11, 2012. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before the magistrate judge. (Dkt. Nos. 11, 13.) On April 15, 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 affirms the decision of the Commissioner.

I.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On July 29, 2009, Hernandez filed an application for disability insurance benefits, alleging an onset date of May 21, 2009. Administrative Record ("AR") 16, 122. The application was denied initially and on reconsideration. AR 16, 56, 60. Hernandez requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). AR 75. On October 27, 2010, the ALJ conducted a hearing at which Hernandez and a vocational expert ("VE") testified. AR 28-48. On November 29, 2010, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 10-24. On March 1, 2012, the Appeals Council denied the request for review. AR 3-7. 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).

B. The ALJ's Findings

Following the five-step sequential analysis applicable to disability determinations, Lounsburry v. Barnhart, 468 F.3d 1111, 1114 (9th Cir. 2006), [1] the ALJ found that Hernandez has the severe impairments of lumbar degenerative disc disease, diabetes mellitus, and obesity. AR 18. She does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or equals one of the listed impairments. AR 20. She has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work, including lifting 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, and standing and/or walking for 6 hours in an 8-hour workday. She cannot climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds. She can frequently perform other postural activities, such as balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, crawling, and climbing ramps/stairs. She cannot have concentrated exposure to industrial hazards, such as unprotected heights and dangerous machinery. Id. She is capable of performing her past relevant work as a mold maker as generally performed, and as a hand packager as actually performed. AR 23-24.

C. Treating Physician

Hernandez contends the ALJ erred in failing to properly evaluate the opinion of Dr. ...


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