The opinion of the court was delivered by: VICTOR B. Kenton United States Magistrate Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER (Social Security Case)
This matter is before the Court for review of the decision by the Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff's application for disability benefits. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(c), the parties have consented that the case may be handled by the Magistrate Judge. The action arises under 42 U.S.C. §405(g), which authorizes the Court to enter judgment upon the pleadings and transcript of the record before the Commissioner. The parties have filed the Joint Stipulation ("JS"), and the Commissioner has filed the certified Administrative Record ("AR").
Plaintiff raises the following issues:
1. Whether the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") erred in considering Plaintiff's ability to perform other work in the national economy. (JS at 2.)
This Memorandum Opinion will constitute the Court's findings of fact and conclusions of law. After reviewing the matter, the Court concludes that the decision of the Commissioner must be affirmed.
I THE ALJ DID NOT ERR AT STEP FIVE OF THE SEQUENTIAL EVALUATION PROCESS IN CONSIDERING PLAINTIFF'S ABILITY TO PERFORM OTHER WORK IN THE NATIONAL ECONOMY
At Step Five of the sequential evaluation process, it is the duty of the ALJ to demonstrate that there are a significant number of jobs in the national economy that a claimant is able to do. See Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098-99 (9th Cir. 1999); 20 C.F.R. §404.1520(d),
(e), §416.920(d), (e). This can be accomplished either by calling on the testimony of a vocational expert ("VE") or by referring to Commissioner's Medical-Vocational Guidelines, commonly known as the "grids." See Tackett, 180 F.3d at 1100-01.
An ALJ may rely on the grids only when the relevant grid "completely and accurately represents claimant's limitations, in other words, a claimant must be able to perform the full range of jobs in a given category, i.e., sedentary work, light work or medium work." (Tackett, 180 F.3d at 1101.) Thus, where a claimant suffers from significant non-exertional impairments, full reliance on the grids is inappropriate and a VE's testimony is required. (Id.; see also Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 960 (9th Cir. 2002).)
Here, the ALJ assessed Plaintiff's residual functional capacity ("RFC" as light work with certain non-exertional limitations:
"... occasionally climb ramps and stairs, but never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; he can occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; he should avoid concentrated exposure to extreme heat, even moderate exposure to hazards, and working at unprotected height." (AR 13.)
It is Plaintiff's contention that the non-exertional impairments, while correctly assessed, would significantly erode the occupational base of light work and thus preclude the ALJ from reliance on the grids.
The question presented to the Court is whether, in fact, the particular non-exertional impairments identified do erode the occupational base for light work. Non-exertional limitations do not automatically preclude application of the grids. See Desrosiers v. Secretary of HHS, 846 F.2d 573, 577 (9th Cir. 1988); Burkhart v. Bowen, 856 F.2d 1335, 1340 (9th Cir. 1988). As Desrosiers instructs, the ALJ must first determine if a claimant's non-exertional limitations "significantly limit the range of work permitted by his exertional limitations." (Desrosiers, 846 F.2d at 577.)
The impact of such non-exertional limitations is significantly dealt with in Social Security Ruling ("SSR") 85-15. A specific section is devoted to the non-exertional limitations which are applicable in this case, which consist of stooping, kneeling, crouching and crawling. (See SSR 85-15(2)(b).) It is there stated that stooping, kneeling, crouching and crawling are "progressively more strenuous forms of bending parts of the body, with crawling as a form of locomotion involving bending." It has been stated that "some stooping ... is required to do ...