Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Sonia L. Gryder v. Commissioner of Social

March 28, 2011

SONIA L. GRYDER,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL
SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Craig M. Kellison United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, who is proceeding with retained counsel, brings this action for judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Pursuant to the written consent of all parties, this case is before the undersigned as the presiding judge for all purposes, including entry of final judgment. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Pending before the court are plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 20) and defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment (Doc. 26). For the reasons discussed below, the court will deny plaintiff's motion for summary judgment or remand and grant the Commissioner's cross-motion for summary judgment.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY*fn1

Plaintiff applied for social security benefits protectively on May 2, 2005, alleging an onset of disability on March 10, 2005, due to physical and mental impairments. (Certified administrative record ("CAR") 31-34, 90). Specifically, plaintiff claims disability based on impairments due to fibromyalgia, osteoporosis, pain, insomnia, fatigue and inability to focus. (CAR 81). Plaintiff's claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing, three of which were held on October 20, 2008, March 20, 2008, and August 19, 2008, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Peter F. Belli. In an October 8, 2008, decision, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff is not disabled*fn2 based on the following findings:

1. The claimant last met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act on March 31, 2008.

2. The claimant did not engage in substantial gainful activity during the period from her alleged onset date of March 10, 2005 through her date last insured of March 31, 2008 (20 CFR 404.1520(b) and 404.1571 et seq.).

3. Through the date last insured, the claimant had the following severe impairments: fibromyalgia and severe osteoporosis (20 CFR 404.1520(c)).

4. Through the date last insured, the claimant did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525 and 404.1526).

5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that, through the date last insured, the claimant had the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b)*fn3 except she has slight limitations [FN1] in her ability to: understand, remember, and carry out detailed instructions; make judgments on detailed work-related decisions; respond appropriately to work pressures in a usual work setting; and respond appropriately to changes in a routine work setting. She has no limitations in the ability to interact with the public, co-workers, or supervisors.

[FN1: Slightly limited is defined as some mild limitations in this area of functioning, but the individual can generally function well.]

6. Through the date last insured, the claimant's past relevant work as a police dispatcher, cashier, and housekeeper did not require the performance of work-related activities precluded by the claimant's residual functional capacity (20 CFR 404.1565).

Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 828 n.5 (9th Cir. 1995).

The claimant bears the burden of proof in the first four steps of the sequential evaluation process. Bowen, 482 U.S. at 146 n.5. The Commissioner bears the burden if the sequential evaluation process proceeds to step five. Id.

7. The claimant was not under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, at any time from March 10, 2005, the alleged onset date, through March 31, 2008, the date last insured (20 CFR 404.1520(f)).

(CAR 8-17). After the Appeals Council declined review on May 27, 2009, this appeal followed.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The court reviews the Commissioner's final decision to determine whether it is:

(1) based on proper legal standards; and (2) supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. See Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1097 (9th Cir. 1999). "Substantial evidence" is more than a mere scintilla, but less than a preponderance. See Saelee v. Chater, 94 F.3d 520, 521 (9th Cir. 1996). It is "such evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 402 (1971). The record as a whole, including both the evidence that supports and detracts from the Commissioner's conclusion, must be considered and weighed. See Howard v. Heckler, 782 F.2d 1484, 1487 (9th Cir. 1986); Jones v. Heckler, 760 F.2d 993, 995 (9th Cir. 1985). The court may not affirm the Commissioner's decision simply by isolating a specific quantum of supporting evidence. See Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989). If substantial evidence supports the administrative findings, or if there is conflicting evidence supporting a particular finding, the finding of the Commissioner is conclusive. See Sprague v. Bowen, 812 F.2d 1226, 1229-30 (9th Cir. 1987). Therefore, where the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, one of which supports the Commissioner's decision, the decision must be affirmed, see Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002), and may be set aside only if an improper legal standard was applied in weighing the evidence, see Burkhart v. Bowen, 856 F.2d 1335, 1338 (9th Cir. 1988).

III. DISCUSSION

Plaintiff argues the ALJ erred in several ways: (1) the ALJ improperly assessed plaintiff's residual functional capacity, including (a) rejecting functional limitations assessed by medical professionals, (b) failing to find plaintiff suffered from severe mental limitations at step two, and (c) discounting the testimony of plaintiff and third party witnesses; and (2) the ALJ failed to pose a properly crafted hypothetical to the vocational expert which accurately reflected all of her functional limitations.

A. SEVERE IMPAIRMENTS

In order to be entitled to benefits, the plaintiff must have an impairment severe enough to significantly limit the physical or mental ability to do basic work activities. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c).*fn4 In determining whether a claimant's alleged impairment is sufficiently severe to limit the ability to work, the Commissioner must consider the combined effect of all impairments on the ability to function, without regard to whether each impairment alone would be sufficiently severe. See Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1289-90 (9th Cir. 1996); see also 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(B); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1523 and 416.923. An impairment, or combination of impairments, can only be found to be non-severe if the evidence establishes a slight abnormality that has no more than a minimal effect on an individual's ability to work. See Social Security Ruling ("SSR") 85-28; see also Yuckert v. Bowen, 841 F.2d 303, 306 (9th Cir. 1988) (adopting SSR 85-28). The plaintiff has the burden of establishing the severity of the impairment by providing medical evidence consisting of signs, symptoms, and laboratory findings. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1508, 416.908. The plaintiff's own statement of symptoms alone is insufficient. See id.

Here, the ALJ found plaintiff's severe impairments consisted of fibromyalgia and osteoporosis. He found plaintiff had other impairments, including asthma and depression, but that these impairments were mild and did not result in anything more than mild limitations. Thus, those impairments were determined to be non-severe.

Plaintiff argues this determination was erroneous as it failed to include her depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as severe impairments. Defendant contends there was no error as plaintiff's depression and PTSD lacked ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.