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Crystal Howard v. Carolyn W. Colvin

April 25, 2013


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 issues listed *fn2 in the Joint Stipulation ("JS"). *fn3


As reflected in the Joint Stipulation, the disputed issues raised by Plaintiff as the grounds for reversal and/or remand are as follows:

(1) Whether the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") complied with the previous District Court Order requiring the ALJ to properly consider the opinions of examining physician, Dr. Berman, and treating physician, Dr. Multani; (2) Whether the ALJ inappropriately substituted his own judgment for that of Plaintiff's treating physicians, Dr. Pasuhuk, Dr. Symonett, and Dr. Yang, when he rejected their opinions because the objective evidence did not show what he would expect it to show; and (3) Whether the ALJ provided a complete and accurate assessment of Plaintiff's residual functional capacity ("RFC"). (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." Richardson, 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. Procedural History.

On April 28, 2005, Plaintiff filed concurrent applications for SSI and SSD Benefits. (Administrative Record ("AR") at 151-53.) On September 29, 2005, Plaintiff's concurrent applications were denied initially (id. at 61-65), on December 13, 2005, upon reconsideration (id. at 55-60). Plaintiff filed a timely Request for Hearing and hearings were held on June 13, 2007, and April 3, 2008. (Id. at 765-87, 788-811.) On April 28, 2008, Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Gail Reich, issued an unfavorable decision. (Id. at 32-43.) A request for review of the hearing decision resulted in an Appeals Council remand on January 9, 2009. (Id. at 95-98.) On August 12, 2009, and November 30, 2009, hearings were again held. (Id. at 812-31, 832-48.) On December 18, 2009, an unfavorable decision issued. Plaintiff then commenced a federal court action in this District, case number EDCV 10-914-OP.

On January 28, 2011, this Court granted judgment for Plaintiff and remanded the case for further administrative proceedings ("Opinion"). (Id. at 870-86.) Specifically, the Court ordered that upon remand, the ALJ would properly consider the opinions of Dr. Berman and Dr. Multani, and, if the ALJ again determined rejection was warranted, to set forth legally sufficient reasons for rejecting these doctors' opinions. (Id. at 878-79, 882.)

On May 8, 2012, a hearing was held before Administrative Law ("ALJ") Joseph Lisiecki III. (Id. at 1386-1407.) On July 30, 2012, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. (Id. at 849-67.) On October 3, 2012, Plaintiff commenced this action.

B. ALJ Decision.

The ALJ found that Plaintiff has the severe impairments of history of deep vein thrombosis ("DVT"); migraine headaches; lumbar spine disc disease with chronic back pain; diabetes mellitus; sickle cell anemia; and major depressive disorder. (Id. at 854.) The ALJ also found that Plaintiff has the RFC to perform light work, with the following limitations: Plaintiff is able to lift and/or carry twenty pounds occasionally, ten pounds frequently; stand and walk with normal breaks for six hours of an eight-hour day; sit with normal breaks for a total of six hours of an eight-hour day; can occasionally climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl, but never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds; avoid extreme cold, heat, wetness, humidity, noise; avoid concentrated exposure to vibrations and hazards such as fumes, odors, or gases; and is limited to simple tasks with simple work related decisions with only frequent interaction with co-workers and supervisors in a non-public setting. (Id. at 860, 861.)

Relying on the testimony of a vocational expert ("VE"), the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not capable of performing her past relevant work. (Id. at 865.) Also based on the testimony of the VE, the ALJ found that Plaintiff could perform the requirements of occupations such as Shoe Packer (Dictionary of Occupational Titles ("DOT") No. ...

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