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Ravi Harryram v. Michael J. Astrue

July 13, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Oswald Parada United States Magistrate Judge


The Court now rules as follows with respect to the disputed issue listed in*fn1 the Joint Stipulation ("JS").*fn2


As reflected in the Joint Stipulation, the sole disputed issue raised by Plaintiff as the ground for reversal and/or remand is whether the Administrative Law Judge's ("ALJ") residual functional capacity ("RFC") assessment is supported by substantial evidence. (JS at 3.)


Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the Commissioner's decision to determine whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence and whether the proper legal standards were applied. DeLorme v. Sullivan, 924 F.2d 841, 846 (9th Cir. 1991). Substantial evidence means "more than a mere scintilla" but less than a preponderance. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S. Ct. 1420, 28 L. Ed. 2d 842 (1971); Desrosiers v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 846 F.2d 573, 575-76 (9th Cir. 1988). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Perales, 402 U.S. at 401 (citation omitted). The Court must review the record as a whole and consider adverse as well as supporting evidence. Green v. Heckler, 803 F.2d 528, 529-30 (9th Cir. 1986). Where evidence is susceptible of more than one rational interpretation, the Commissioner's decision must be upheld. Gallant v. Heckler, 753 F.2d 1450, 1452 (9th Cir. 1984).


A. The ALJ's Findings.

The ALJ found that Plaintiff has the impairments of a depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, asthma, and migraine headaches. (Administrative Record ("AR") at 21.) The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has the RFC to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels, but with the following non-exertional limitations: (1) he is restricted from concentrated exposure to environmental pollutants such as gas, fumes, dust, etc., and (2) he is limited to simple, repetitive tasks not requiring very high production demands. (Id. at 23.)

Relying on the testimony of a vocational expert ("VE"), the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was unable to perform his past relevant work as a Chef (Dictionary of Occupational Titles ("DOT") No. 313.361-014). (AR at 25, 65.) The ALJ also relied on the VE's testimony to determine that there were alternative occupations such as Product Inspector (DOT No. 712.684-050), Product Packer (DOT No. 920.687-166), and Assembler (DOT No. 692.686-034), that exist in significant numbers in the national economy. (AR at 26.)

B. The ALJ's RFC Assessment Is Supported by Substantial Evidence.

Plaintiff contendsthat his mental impairments are more restrictive than found by the ALJ. (JS at 9.) Specifically, he argues that the ALJ improperly evaluated the opinion of consultative psychologist, Norman Reichwald, PsyD, QME, by misunderstanding the term "slight" from Dr. Reichwald's finding that Plaintiff was "slightly impaired." (Id. at 5, 9-10.) This, Plaintiff argues, led the ALJ to improperly interpret Dr. Reichwald's opinion when assessing Plaintiff's RFC. (Id. at 9-10.) As a result, Plaintiff contends that because of this error his limitations were not adequately presented in the hypothetical to the VE. (Id. at 6.) Plaintiff also asserts that the ALJ failed to sustain his burden at step five by not identifying alternate work within Plaintiff's RFC. (Id.) The Court disagrees with Plaintiff's contentions.

a. The ALJ Properly Considered the Consultative Examiner's Opinion.

In determining a claimant's disability status, an ALJ has a responsibility to determine the claimant's RFC after considering "all of the relevant medical and other evidence" in the record, including all medical opinion evidence. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1545(a)(3), 404.1546(c), 416.945(a)(3), 416.946(c); see also Social Security Ruling ("SSR") 96-8p, 1996 WL 374184, at *5, *7. "Unless a treating source's opinion is given controlling weight, the [ALJ] must explain in the decision the weight given to the opinions of a State agency medical or psychological consultant or other program physician, psychologist, or other medical specialist." 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(f)(2)(ii), 416.927(f)(2)(ii) (as amended by 75 FR 62676-01); see also SSR 96-6p ("Findings . . . made by State agency medical and psychological consultants . . . regarding the nature and ...

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