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Gonzalez v. Donna E. Shalala Secretary

filed*fn**: April 20, 1993.

JAIME GONZALEZ, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
DONNA E. SHALALA,*FN* SECRETARY, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California. D.C. No. CV-86-3643-TJH. Terry J. Hatter, Jr., District Judge, Presiding

Before: Hall, Wiggins, and Trott, Circuit Judges

MEMORANDUM

The Secretary of Health and Human Services concluded that Jaime Gonzalez was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act and denied his claim for Social Security disability benefits. The district court affirmed the Secretary's decision. Gonzalez appeals to this court, and we affirm.

I. Facts

Jaime Gonzalez has a ninth grade education; speaks, reads, and writes in Spanish and English; and has worked primarily as a machine shop supervisor, welder, painter, and assembler. Gonzalez applied for disability insurance benefits in October, 1984, alleging disability commencing June 3, 1979, due to back problems and neck pains that resulted from an industrial injury that occurred in 1978. That application was rejected. After a district court remand, Gonzalez's application was again rejected. After another district court remand, Gonzalez's application was again rejected. The district court affirmed. Gonzalez now appeals.

II. Standard of Review

We will disturb a decision denying benefits "'only if it is not supported by substantial evidence or it is based on legal error.'" Brawner v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 839 F.2d 432, 433 (9th Cir. 1988) (quoting Green v. Heckler, 803 F.2d 528, 529 (9th Cir. 1986)); see 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Substantial evidence means "more than a mere scintilla," Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)), but "less than a preponderance." Desrosiers v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 846 F.2d 573, 576 (9th Cir. 1988) (quoting Sorenson v. Weinberger, 514 F.2d 1112, 1119 n.10 (9th Cir. 1975)). "It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a Conclusion." Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401 (quoting Consolidated Edison, 305 U.S. at 229). We review the record as a whole and consider adverse as well as supporting evidence. Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989).

III. Discussion

In order to obtain disability benefits, Gonzalez must demonstrate that he was disabled prior to his last insured date (June 30, 1984). See 42 U.S.C. § 423(c); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520; Morgan v. Sullivan, 945 F.2d 1079, 1080 (9th Cir. 1991). "Claimants are disabled if a medically determinable physical or mental impairment prevents them from engaging in substantial gainful activity." Perry v. Heckler, 722 F.2d 461, 464 (9th Cir. 1983); 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). "The claimant establishes a prima facie case of disability by showing that [his] impairment prevents [him] from performing [his] previous occupation." Cotton v. Bowen, 799 F.2d 1403, 1405 (9th Cir. 1986). "After a claimant establishes a prima facie case of disability by showing his inability to perform former work, the burden shifts to the Secretary to prove that the claimant can engage in other types of substantial gainful work that exists in the national economy." Maounis v. Heckler, 738 F.2d 1032, 1034 (9th Cir. 1984) (italics deleted).

Conceding that the evidence supported Gonzalez's claim that he was unable to perform his former work, the ALJ nonetheless concluded that Gonzalez was not disabled because he could engage in light and sedentary forms of substantial gainful employment. Gonzalez appeals.

A. Functional Limitations

"The inquiry here is whether the record, read as a whole, yields such evidence as would allow a reasonable mind to accept the Conclusions reached by the ALJ." Gallant v. Heckler, 753 F.2d 1450, 1453 (9th Cir. 1984) (citations omitted). Where the evidence supports more than one rational interpretation, we must accept the ALJ's Conclusion. See Rhinehart v. Finch, 438 F.2d 920, 921 (9th Cir. 1971).

The ALJ concluded that Gonzalez was capable of performing light and sedentary forms of substantial gainful employment. As the district court pointed out,

Suffice it to say that the medical and vocational evidence in the record strongly supports the findings reached by the Secretary. Except for Plaintiff's own testimony and that of Doctor ...


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