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Valenzuela v. Colvin

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

May 23, 2013

ALFONSO G. VALENZUELA, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, [1] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

MARGARET A. NAGLE, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff filed a Complaint on February 1, 2012, seeking review of the denial by the Social Security Commissioner ("Commissioner") of plaintiff's application for supplemental security income ("SSI"). On March 6, 2012, the parties consented, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), to proceed before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge. The parties filed a Joint Stipulation on October 18, 2012, in which: plaintiff seeks an order reversing the Commissioner's decision and awarding benefits or, alternatively, remanding for further administrative proceedings; and the Commissioner requests that his decision be affirmed or, alternatively, remanded for further administrative proceedings.

SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS

On October 30, 2009, plaintiff filed an application for SSI, alleging an inability to work since January 1, 2009, due to paranoia, schizophrenia, diabetes, neuropathy, and right hand injury. (Administrative Record ("A.R.") 38, 99-101, 125.)

The Commissioner denied plaintiff's claim initially, and upon reconsideration. (A.R. 48-52, 57-62.) On May 3, 2011, plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, testified at a hearing before Administrative Law James L. Moser (the "ALJ"). (A.R. 35-45.) Medical expert David Peterson and vocational expert Sandra Trost also testified. ( Id. ) On May 13, 2011, the ALJ denied plaintiff's claim. (A.R. 18-34.) The Appeals Council subsequently denied plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision. (A.R. 1-6.) That decision is now at issue in this action.

SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

The ALJ found that plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since October 30, 2009, the date his SSI application was filed. (A.R. 23.) The ALJ determined that plaintiff has the severe impairments of: diabetes mellitus type II, chronic pancreatitis, and arthritis of the hands, but he does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(d), 416.925, 416.926). (A.R. 23, 26.)

After reviewing the record, the ALJ determined that plaintiff has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform "less than the full range of light work." (A.R. 26.) Specifically, plaintiff can:

lift and carry up to 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; stand and walk up to 6 hours in an 8-hour day; and sit up to 6 hours in an 8-hour day. He can occasionally climb ramps, stairs, ladders, ropes, and scaffolds. He can occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl. Furthermore, he is limited to occasional handling and fingering with the right hand.

( Id. )

The ALJ found that plaintiff had no past relevant work. (A.R. 28.) However, based upon plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, the ALJ found that jobs exist in the national economy that plaintiff could perform, including "flagger, " "counter clerk, " and "bakery work[er] convey[or] line." (A.R. 29.) Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, since October 30, 2009, the date he filed his SSI application. ( Id. )

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the Commissioner's decision to determine whether it is free from legal error and supported by substantial evidence. Orn v. Astrue , 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'" Id. (citation omitted). The "evidence must be more than a mere scintilla but not necessarily a preponderance." Connett v. Barnhart , 340 F.3d 871, 873 (9th Cir. 2003). "While inferences from the record can constitute substantial evidence, only those reasonably drawn from the record' will suffice." Widmark v. Barnhart , 454 F.3d 1063, 1066 (9th Cir. 2006)(citation omitted).

Although this Court cannot substitute its discretion for that of the Commissioner, the Court nonetheless must review the record as a whole, "weighing both the evidence that supports and the evidence that detracts from the [Commissioner's] conclusion." Desrosiers v. Sec'y of Health and Hum. Servs. , 846 F.2d 573, 576 (9th Cir. 1988); see also Jones v. Heckler , 760 F.2d 993, 995 (9th Cir. 1985). "The ALJ is responsible for determining credibility, resolving ...


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