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Jackson v. Astrue

September 29, 2010

EARL L. JACKSON, III, PETITIONER,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Candy W. Dale Chief United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Currently pending before the Court for consideration is the Petition for Review (Dkt. 1) of the Respondent's denial of social security benefits filed June 14, 2009, by Earl L. Jackson, III ("Petitioner"). The Court has reviewed the Petition for Review and the Answer, the parties' memoranda and the administrative record (AR). For the reasons that follow, the Court will affirm the decision of the Commissioner.

PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL HISTORY

Petitioner filed an application for Supplemental Security Income on September 22, 2006, alleging disability due to hepatitis C, cirrhosis of the liver, bilateral degenerative joint disease of the hips, depression, anxiety, and a history of alcohol abuse. Petitioner's application was denied initially and on reconsideration, and a request for a hearing was timely filed.

Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Alejandro Martinez conducted a hearing on October 9, 2008, taking testimony from Petitioner, medical expert Margaret Moore, Ph.D., and vocational expert Richard G. Taylor, Ph.D. ALJ Martinez issued a decision finding Petitioner not disabled on November 19, 2008. (AR 13--23.)

Petitioner filed a timely appeal to the Appeals Council which denied his request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (AR 3--5.) Petitioner appealed this final decision to the Court which has jurisdiction to review the ALJ's decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

At the time of the hearing before ALJ Martinez, Petitioner was 49 years of age. He has an eighth grade education and no vocational training. His past relevant work includes work as a sheet rocker.

SEQUENTIAL PROCESS

The Commissioner follows a five-step sequential evaluation for determining whether a claimant is disabled. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. At step one, it must be determined whether the claimant is engaged in substantially gainful activity. The ALJ found Petitioner had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since September 22, 2006, the application date and amended onset date.*fn1

At step two, it must be determined whether claimant suffers from a severe impairment. The ALJ found that the Petitioner had the following severe impairments: hepatitis C, cirrhosis of the liver, bilateral degenerative joint disease of the hips, depression, anxiety, and a history of alcohol abuse (in remission).

Step three asks whether a claimant's impairments meet or equal a listed impairment. The ALJ found that Petitioner's impairments did not meet or equal the criteria for any of the listed impairments. If a claimant's impairments do not meet or equal a listing, the Commissioner must assess the residual functional capacity ("RFC") and determine at step four whether the claimant has demonstrated an inability to perform past relevant work. The ALJ found that, although Petitioner had the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work, Petitioner was not able to perform his past relevant work as a sheet rocker.

If a claimant demonstrates an inability to perform past relevant work, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to demonstrate at step five that the claimant retains the capacity to make an adjustment to other work that exists in significant levels in the national economy, after considering the claimant's RFC, age, education and work experience. At step five, the ALJ determined that Petitioner had acquired work skills from his past relevant work as a sheet rocker that were transferable to performance of sedentary unskilled work as an order clerk or a telephone quotation clerk without the acquisition of new skills. Therefore, the ALJ found Petitioner not disabled.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The Petitioner bears the burden of showing that disability benefits are proper because of the inability "to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which . . . has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A); see also 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A); Rhinehart v. Fitch, 438 F.2d 920, 921 (9th Cir. 1971). An individual will be determined to be disabled only if his physical or mental impairments are of such severity that he not only cannot do his previous work but is unable, considering his age, education, and work experience, to engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A).

On review, the Court is instructed to uphold the decision of the Commissioner if the decision is supported by substantial evidence and is not the product of legal error. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Universal Camera Corp. v. Nat'l Labor Relations Bd., 340 U.S. 474 (1951); Meanel v. Apfel, 172 F.3d 1111, 1113 (9th Cir. 1999) (as amended); DeLorme v. Sullivan, 924 F.2d 841, 846 (9th Cir. 1991). Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). It is more than a scintilla but less than a preponderance, Jamerson ...


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