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S.W. ex rel. Williams v. Colvin

United States District Court, C.D. California, Western Division

March 19, 2014

S.W. by and through his Guardian Ad Litem WANDA WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

PAUL L. ABRAMS, Magistrate Judge.

I.

PROCEEDINGS

Wanda Williams ("plaintiff"), on behalf of S.W., [1] filed this action on May 6, 2013, seeking review of the Commissioner's denial of S.W.'s application for Supplementary Security Income payments. The parties filed Consents to proceed before the undersigned Magistrate Judge on June 7, 2013, and January 27, 2014. Pursuant to the Court's Order, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation on January 27, 2014, that addresses their positions concerning the disputed issues in the case. The Court has taken the Joint Stipulation under submission without oral argument.

II.

BACKGROUND

On September 28, 2009, plaintiff filed an application seeking Supplemental Security Income payments on behalf of her minor grandson, S.W., alleging that he has been disabled since April 2, 2008, due to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and bi-polar disorder. [Administrative Record ("AR") at 19, 94-98, 102.] After the application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). [AR at 66-69, 71-77.] A hearing was held on May 24, 2011, at which time plaintiff and S.W. appeared with counsel and both testified. [AR at 35-63.] A medical expert ("ME") also testified. [AR at 38-44.] On August 22, 2011, the ALJ determined that S.W. was not disabled. [AR at 19-30.] When the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review of the hearing decision on December 7, 2012, the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner. [AR at 6-10, 14, 274-75.] This action followed.

III.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 405(g), this Court has authority to review 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); Drouin v. Sullivan , 966 F.2d 1255, 1257 (9th Cir. 1992).

In this context, the term "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; see also Drouin , 966 F.2d at 1257. When 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; Hammock v. Bowen , 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989). Where the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the Court must defer to the decision of the Commissioner. Moncada , 60 F.3d at 523; Andrews v. Shalala , 53 F.3d 1035, 1039-40 (9th Cir. 1995); Drouin , 966 F.2d at 1258.

IV.

THE EVALUATION OF DISABILITY IN A CHILD

To qualify for disability benefits, a child under the age of eighteen must have "a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, which results in marked and severe functional limitations, and which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a ...


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