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Moreno v. Colvin

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

September 4, 2013

JUAN MORENO, 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 April 24, 2012, seeking review of the denial of plaintiff's application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits ("DIB"). On May 22, 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 July 8, 2013, in which: plaintiff seeks an order reversing the Commissioner's decision and remanding this case for the payment of benefits; and the Commissioner requests that her decision be affirmed or, alternatively, remanded for further administrative proceedings.

SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS

Plaintiff filed an application for a period of disability and DIB on October 27, 2008. (Administrative Record ("A.R.") 15.) Plaintiff, who was born on August 29, 1962, [2] claims to have been disabled since June 20, 2007, due to neck and back injuries and "nerves." (A.R. 67, 73, 112.)[3] Plaintiff has past relevant work experience as a warehouse worker. (A.R. 21.)

After the Commissioner denied plaintiff's claim initially and upon reconsideration (A.R. 67-71, 73-77), plaintiff requested a hearing (A.R. 79-80). On April 22, 2010, plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, appeared and testified at a hearing before Administrative Law Judge Milan M. Dostal (the "ALJ"). (A.R. 361-89.) Vocational expert Victoria Rae also testified. ( Id. ) On July 16, 2010, the ALJ denied plaintiff's claim (A.R. 15-22), and the Appeals Council subsequently denied plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision (A.R. 2-7). That decision is now at issue in this action.

SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

In his July 16, 2010 decision, the ALJ found that plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2011, and he has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since June 20, 2007, the alleged onset date of his disability. (A.R. 17.) The ALJ determined that plaintiff has the severe impairments of cervical disc disease and obesity, 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. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526). ( Id. )

After reviewing the record, the ALJ determined that plaintiff has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b) with certain limitations. (A.R. 18.) Specifically, the ALJ found that, plaintiff could:

lift and carry 20 pounds occasionally, 10 pounds frequently; sit and stand at option; occasionally climb ladders; all other postural movements can be done frequently; moderate pain symptoms in back, neck, arms, and hands with occasional hand numbness but can be controlled with appropriate medications; and slight depression with a slight memory loss but can be controlled with medication with no side effects; and a sleep disorder that has a slight affect on his work activity and can be controlled with appropriate medications.

( Id. )

The ALJ found that plaintiff was unable to perform his past relevant work as a warehouse worker. (A.R. 21.) However, based upon his RFC assessment for plaintiff and after having considered plaintiff's age, education, [4] work experience, and the testimony of the vocational expert, the ALJ found that "there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that [plaintiff] can perform, " including the jobs of "Assembler, small parts" and "Ticket Taker." (A.R. 21-22.) Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from June 20, 2007, the alleged onset date, through July 16, 2010, the date of the AlJ's decision. (A.R. 22.)

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 in the record as a whole. 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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