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Blackmon v. Berryhill

United States District Court, C.D. California

April 27, 2017

STEVE BLACKMON, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ALICIA G ROSENBERG United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff filed this action on July 6, 2016. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before the magistrate judge. (Dkt. Nos. 11, 15.) On April 4, 2017, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation 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 June 18, 2012, Blackmon filed an application for supplemental security income benefits, alleging an onset date of April 12, 2012. Administrative Record (“AR”) 13. The application was denied initially and on reconsideration. AR 13, 62, 87. Blackmon requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). On October 1, 2014, the ALJ conducted a hearing at which Blackmon and a vocational expert testified. AR 28-61. On January 23, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 10-22. On May 11, 2016, the Appeals Council denied the request for review. AR 1-3. This action followed.

         II.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 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) (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. ...


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