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Filomena Figueroa v. Carolyn W. Colvin

May 2, 2013

FILOMENA FIGUEROA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN,*FN1 ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

The Court now rules as follows with respect to the disputed issues listed in *fn2 the Joint Stipulation ("JS").*fn3

I. DISPUTED ISSUES

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") fully developed the record;

(2) Whether the ALJ properly assessed Plaintiff's credibility;

(3) Whether the ALJ properly considered lay witness testimony;

(4) Whether the ALJ properly considered Plaintiff's combined impairments in making a Residual Functional Capacity ("RFC") assessment; and

(5) Whether the ALJ erred in relying on the Vocational Expert's ("VE") testimony.

(JS at 3, 31.)*fn4

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

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).

III. DISCUSSION

A. The ALJ's Findings.

The ALJ found that Plaintiff has the severe impairments of grade 1 spondylolisthesis, degenerative disc disease, mild degenerative changes affecting the lumbar spine, and status post left knee arthroscopic repair. (Administrative Record ("AR") at 30.) The ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work with the following limitations: no climbing ladders, ropes, and scaffolds; no stooping or crouching; and no concentrated exposure to hazardous machinery, unprotected heights, and other high risk, hazardous or unsafe conditions. (Id. at 30-31.) Relying on the testimony of a vocational expert, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not capable of performing her past relevant work but could perform alternative work as a sorter, inspector, and labeler. (Id. at 35-36.)

B. The ALJ Did Not Fail to Fully Develop the Record.

Plaintiff contends that the ALJ failed to properly develop the record and appears to argue that the ALJ should have subpoenaed additional records from Long Beach Memorial Medical Center regarding the treatment of Plaintiff's cardiac and gastric conditions. (JS at 3-6.)

Under the Commissioner's regulations, both the disability benefits claimant and the Social Security Administration bear a regulatory responsibility for developing the evidentiary record. The claimant must produce medical evidence showing that the claimant has an impairment, and how severe that impairment is during the time the claimant claims to be disabled. See 20 C.F.R. ยงยง 404.1512(c) (applicable to claims for disability benefits), 416.912(c) (applicable to claims for SSI benefits). In addition, the SSA must make every reasonable effort to help the claimant get medical ...


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