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Gowell v. Colvin

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

June 5, 2014

KENT KIMBERLY GOWELL, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

PAUL L. ABRAMS, Magistrate Judge.

I.

PROCEEDINGS

Plaintiff filed this action on July 2, 2013, seeking review of the Commissioner's denial of his application for Supplemental Security Income payments. The parties filed Consents to proceed before the undersigned Magistrate Judge on July 9, 2013, and August 6, 2013. Pursuant to the Court's Order, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation on April 30, 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

Plaintiff was born on September 22, 1959. [Administrative Record ("AR") at 19, 63-66.] He obtained a G.E.D., and has past relevant work experience as a salesperson. [AR at 19, 38, 42, 168-69.]

On February 4, 2010, plaintiff protectively filed applications for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income payments, alleging that he has been unable to work since August 1, 1999. [AR at 12, 143-50, 162; Joint Stipulation ("JS") at 2.] After his applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration, plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). [AR at 12, 69-72, 77-81, 83-84.] A hearing was initially held on September 7, 2011; it was continued so that plaintiff could obtain representation. [AR at 12, 26-33.] A second hearing was held on February 13, 2012, at which time plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified on his own behalf. [AR at 12, 34-62.][1] A vocational expert ("VE") also testified. [AR at 12, 52-60.] On March 7, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision concluding that plaintiff was not under a disability from February 4, 2010, through the date of the decision. [AR at 12-21.] Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ's decision by the Appeals Council. [AR at 8.] When the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review on May 23, 2013, the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner. [AR at 1-5]; see Sam v. Astrue , 550 F.3d 808, 810 (9th Cir. 2008) (per curiam). 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. Berry v. Astrue , 622 F.3d 1228, 1231 (9th Cir. 2010).

"Substantial evidence means more than a mere scintilla but less than a preponderance; it is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Carmickle v. Comm'r, Soc. Sec. Admin. , 533 F.3d 1155, 1159 (9th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); Reddick v. Chater , 157 F.3d 715, 720 (9th Cir. 1998) (same). 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. Mayes v. Massanari , 276 F.3d 453, 459 (9th Cir. 2001); see Ryan v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. , 528 F.3d 1194, 1198 (9th Cir. 2008) ("[A] reviewing court must consider the entire record as a whole and may not affirm simply by isolating a specific quantum of supporting evidence.") (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). "Where evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the ALJ's decision should be upheld." Ryan , 528 F.3d at 1198 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); see Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin. , 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006) ("If the evidence can support either affirming or reversing the ALJ's conclusion, [the reviewing court] may not substitute [its] judgment for that of the ALJ.").

IV.

THE EVALUATION OF ...


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