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Wobbe v. Colvin

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

July 1, 2013

SONIA D. WOBBE, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION

JOHN V. ACOSTA, Magistrate Judge.

Sonia Wobbe ("plaintiff") seeks judicial review of a final decision by the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying her applications for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-403, 1381-83(f). This Court has jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 405(g). Based on a careful review of the record, the Commissioner's decision should be affirmed and this case dismissed.

Procedural Background

Plaintiff filed applications for SSI and DIB on December 17, 2008, alleging disability as of May 29, 2007. (Tr. 153-59.) Both applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration, (Tr. 89, 93.) A hearing was held on November 4, 2010 before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Rudolph Murgo. (Tr. 16-24.) On March 4, 2011, ALJ Murgo issued a decision finding plaintiff not disabled. ( Id. ) Plaintiff timely requested review of the ALJ's decision and, after the Appeals Council denied her request, plaintiff filed a complaint in this District. (Tr. 1-3.)

Factual Background

Born on March 15, 1963, plaintiff was 44 years old on the alleged onset date of disability and 47 years old on the date of the hearing. (Tr. 16, 39.) Plaintiff completed high school through tenth grade, completed some community college, and held various jobs including deli worker and telephone salesperson until she was terminated in approximately 2008. (Tr. 23, 41-47.)

Standard of Review

The court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if it is based on proper legal standards and the findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record. Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989). Substantial evidence is "more than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (quoting Consol. Edison Co. v. N.L.R.B., 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). The court must weigh "both the evidence that supports and detracts from the [Commissioner's] conclusions." Martinez v. Heckler, 807 F.2d 771, 772 (9th Cir. 1986). "Where the evidence as a whole can support either a grant or a denial, [a court] may not substitute [its] judgment for the ALJ's." Massachi v. Astrue, 486 F.3d 1149, 1152 (9th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted).

The initial burden of proof rests upon the claimant to establish disability. Howard v. Heckler, 782 F.2d 1484, 1486 (9th Cir. 1986). To meet this burden, the claimant must demonstrate an "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected... to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).

The Commissioner has established a five-step sequential process for determining whether a person is disabled. Bowen Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. First, the Commissioner determines whether a claimant is engaged in "substantial gainful activity"; if so, the claimant is not disabled. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 140; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b), 416.920(b).

At step two, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant has a "medically severe impairment or combination of impairments." Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 140-41; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e). If not, the claimant is not disabled. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141.

At step three, the Commissioner determines whether the impairment meets or equals "one of a number of listed impairments that the Secretary acknowledges are so severe as to preclude substantial gainful activity." Id. ; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d). If so, the claimant is conclusively presumed disabled; if not, the Commissioner proceeds to step four. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141.

At step four, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant can still perform "past relevant work." Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e). If the claimant can work, she is not disabled; if she cannot perform past relevant work, the burden shifts to the Commissioner. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141. At step five, the Commissioner must establish that the claimant can perform other work. Id. at 142; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e) & (f), 416.920(e) & (f) If the Commissioner meets this burden and proves ...


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