The opinion of the court was delivered by: Marc L. Goldman United States Magistrate Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Robert Bauslaugh seeks judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision denying his application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. 42 U.S.C. § 1381 et seq. For the reasons set forth below, the decision of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") is affirmed.
Plaintiff was born on September 7, 1954. (Administrative Record ("AR") 12, 76.) He has a tenth grade education and a veterinary technologist certificate. (AR 200.) Plaintiff was previously employed as a modular classroom setter. (AR 196.) Plaintiff filed an application for SSI benefits on July 11, 2006, alleging that he has been disabled since March 1, 2004, as a result of chronic emphysema, asthma, hearing loss, arthritis, and left hand carpal tunnel syndrome. (AR 8, 76-77.)
Plaintiff's application was denied initially on September 26, 2006, and upon reconsideration on February 8, 2007. (AR 96-100, 103-107.) An administrative hearing was held on March 21, 2008, before ALJ Thomas P. Tielens. (AR 41-75.) On April 21, 2008, ALJ Tielens issued an unfavorable decision. (AR 78-87.) On September 11, 2008, the Appeals Council remanded the case to the ALJ for further proceedings. (AR 93-95.) On March 24, 2009, a second administrative hearing was held before ALJ David M. Ganly, at which Plaintiff, represented by counsel, testified, as did Medical Expert ("ME") Dr. Samuel Landau and Vocational Expert ("VE") David A. Rinehart. (AR 20-40.)
On June 9, 2009, ALJ Ganly denied Plaintiff's application for benefits. (AR 5-14.) The ALJ found that the Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity during the period at issue. (AR 10.) The ALJ further found that, pursuant to 20 C.F.R. 416.920(c), the medical evidence established that Plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: pulmonary emphysema with an asthmatic component, internal derangement of the left knee and status post repair torn cartilage involving both wrists, and status post surgery on the right elbow for bursitis. (Id.) However, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet, or were not medically equal to, one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R., Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Id.) The ALJ found that Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to: perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 416.967(b) except standing and/or walking 2 hours out of 8 provided the use of a handheld assistive device as needed, precluded from work on uneven surfaces and sitting 6 hours out of 8 and lifting and/or carrying 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently. The claimant can climb stairs but cannot climb ladders, work at unprotected heights or balance. He cannot squat, kneel, crawl, run or jump and cannot operate foot pedals or controls on the left. His work environment should be air-conditioned and free of excessive pulmonary irritants such as an office or this hearing room and he cannot perform forceful gripping, grasping or twisting with his hands but can do occasional fine manipulations. His work environment should not be excessively noisy due to decreased hearing and the use of hearing aids. (AR 10-11.)
The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff's impairments prevented him from performing his past relevant work. (AR 12.) However, based on the VE's testimony, the ALJ found that there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform (20 C.F.R. 416.969, 416.969a), such as information clerk, fund raiser II and counter clerk. (AR 12-13.) The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(f). (AR 13.)
On September 4, 2009, the Appeals Council denied review (AR 1-3). Plaintiff then timely commenced this action for judicial review. On May 5, 2010, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("Joint Stp.") of disputed facts and issues. Plaintiff contends that the ALJ erred by: (1) improperly concluding at step three of the sequential process that Plaintiff's impairments did not medically equal a listed impairment and (2) improperly determining that Plaintiff was capable of performing the jobs of information clerk, fund raiser II and counter clerk. (Joint Stp. at 2-3.) Plaintiff seeks reversal of the Commissioner's denial of his application and payment of benefits or, in the alternative, remand for a new administrative hearing. (Joint Stp. at 17.) The Commissioner requests that the ALJ's decision be affirmed. (Joint Stp. at 18.)
Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), a district court may review the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. The Commissioner's or ALJ's decision must be upheld unless "the ALJ's findings are based on legal error or are not supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole." Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1097 (9th Cir. 1990); Parra v. Astrue, 481 F.3d 742, 746 (9th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence means such evidence as a reasonable person might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Widmark v. Barnhart, 454 F.3d 1063, 1066 (9th Cir. 2006). It is more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance. Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006). To determine whether substantial evidence supports a finding, the reviewing court "must review the administrative record as a whole, weighing both the evidence that supports and the evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's conclusion." Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 720 (9th Cir. 1996). "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." Robbins, 466 F.3d at 882.
A. The ALJ Properly Determined That Plaintiff's Impairments Do Not Meet or Equal a Listed Impairment
Plaintiff contends that the ALJ erred by summarily concluding that Plaintiff's combined impairments did not meet or equal one of the disability listings found at 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpt. P, App. 1. Plaintiff also claims that his combined impairments medically equal Listing 1.02. (Joint Stp. at 3-7.) These contentions lack merit.
Plaintiff first contends that the ALJ erred by summarily determining, at step three of the sequential process, that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or equal a listed impairment. (Joint Stp. at 3.) At step three of the sequential evaluation process, an ALJ considers whether an applicant has an impairment or combination of impairments that meet or ...