Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Roybal v. Colvin

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

September 4, 2013

GARY ROYBAL, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER AFFIRMING DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY

JOHN E. McDERMOTT, Magistrate Judge.

PROCEEDINGS

On December 21, 2012, Gary Roybal ("Plaintiff" or "Claimant") filed a complaint seeking review of the decision by the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying Plaintiff's applications for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income benefits. The Commissioner filed an Answer on April 29, 2013. On August 5, 2013, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS"). The matter is now ready for decision.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), both parties consented to proceed before this Magistrate Judge. After reviewing the pleadings, transcripts, and administrative record ("AR"), the Court concludes that the Commissioner's decision must be affirmed and this case dismissed with prejudice.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is a 50 year-old male who applied for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income benefits on February 13, 2008. (AR 8, 55, 56.) The ALJ determined that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since July 1, 2007, the alleged onset date of his disability. (AR 10, 268.)

Plaintiff's claims were denied initially on May 14, 2008 (AR 8, 59-63) and on reconsideration on August 8, 2008. (AR 8, 66-71.) Plaintiff then sought review and on September 23, 2009, the matter proceeded to a hearing before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Michael D. Radensky in San Bernardino, California. (AR 8.) Claimant appeared and testified at the hearing and was represented by counsel. (AR 8.) Medical expert ("ME") Dr. Arthur Lorber[1] and vocational expert ("VE") Troy L. Scott also appeared and testified at the hearing. (AR 8.)

The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on November 13, 2009. (AR 8-19.) The Appeals Council denied review on November 5, 2010. (AR 1-3.)

Plaintiff commenced an action in this Court and on December 20, 2011 the District Court reversed and remanded the case. (AR 349-362.) Pursuant to the District Court remand order, the Appeals Council directed the ALJ to give Plaintiff the opportunity for a hearing, take any further action needed to complete the administrative record, and issue a new decision. (AR 265, 363-365.)

However, on February 11, 2010 (AR 265) a subsequent claim was filed for Supplemental Security Income benefits. (AR 265.) This claim was denied initially on July 19, 2010 and on reconsideration on November 17, 2010. (AR 388.) A hearing was held on January 12, 2012 in San Bernardino, California, before ALJ Margaret Craig. (AR 388, 288.) The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on February 23, 2012. (AR 388-398.)

The Appeals Council further directed that the two claims be associated, which the ALJ has done. (AR 265.) A hearing was held on September 14, 2013, in San Bernardino, California before ALJ Michael D. Radensky. (AR 265.) Plaintiff appeared and testified at the hearing and was represented by counsel. (AR 265.) Vocational expert ("VE") Joseph H. Torres also appeared and testified at the hearing. (AR 265.) The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on September 28, 2012 on the associated claims. (AR 265-278.)

DISPUTED ISSUES

As reflected in the Joint Stipulation, Plaintiff raises the following disputed issues as grounds for reversal and remand:

1. Whether the ALJ properly complied with the District Court Order in properly assessing Claimant's credibility.
2. Whether the ALJ properly complied with the District Court Order in properly determining if Plaintiff meets or equals listing 1.02/1.03.
3. Whether the ALJ properly considered the criteria of Listing 12.05C.
4. Whether the ALJ properly considered Plaintiff's treating physician's physical opinion.
5. Whether the ALJ properly considered Plaintiff's treating physician's mental opinions.
6. Whether the ALJ properly determined if activities of daily living establish the ability to perform full-time competitive substantial gainful activity.
7. Whether there is a DOT inconsistency in the ALJ's holding that the Plaintiff can perform the jobs such as mail clerk and packer.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the ALJ's decision to determine whether the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence and free of legal error. Smolen v. Chater , 80 F.3d 1273, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996); see also DeLorme v. Sullivan , 924 F.2d 841, 846 (9th Cir. 1991) (ALJ's disability determination must be supported by substantial evidence and based on the proper legal standards).

Substantial evidence means "more than a mere scintilla, ' but less than a preponderance." Saelee v. Chater , 94 F.3d 520, 521-22 (9th Cir. 1996) (quoting Richardson v. Perales , 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson , 402 U.S. at 401 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

This Court must review the record as a whole and consider adverse as well as supporting evidence. Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin. , 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006). Where evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the ALJ's decision must be upheld. Morgan v. Comm'r of the Soc. Sec. Admin. , 169 F.3d 595, 599 (9th Cir. 1999). "However, a reviewing court must consider the entire record as a whole and may not affirm simply by isolating a specific quantum of supporting evidence.'" Robbins , 466 F.3d at 882 (quoting Hammock v. Bowen , 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989)); see also Orn v. Astrue , 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007).

THE SEQUENTIAL EVALUATION

The Social Security Act defines disability as the "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or... can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). The Commissioner has established a five-step sequential process to determine whether a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920.

The first step is to determine whether the claimant is presently engaging in substantial gainful activity. Parra v. Astrue , 481 F.3d 742, 746 (9th Cir. 2007). If the claimant is engaging in substantial gainful activity, disability benefits will be denied. Bowen v. Yuckert , 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987). Second, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has a severe impairment or combination of impairments. Parra , 481 F.3d at 746. An impairment is not severe if it does not significantly limit the claimant's ability to work. Smolen v. Chater , 80 F.3d 1273, 1290 (9th Cir. 1996). Third, the ALJ must determine whether the impairment is listed, or equivalent to an impairment listed, in 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, Appendix I of the regulations. Parra , 481 F.3d at 746. If the impairment meets or equals one of the listed impairments, the claimant is presumptively disabled. Bowen v. Yuckert , 482 U.S. at 141. Fourth, the ALJ must determine whether the impairment prevents the claimant from doing past relevant work. Pinto v. Massanari , 249 F.3d 840, 844-45 (9th Cir. 2001).

Before making the step four determination, the ALJ first must determine the claimant's residual functional capacity ("RFC"). 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(e). Residual functional capacity ("RFC") is "the most [one] can still do despite [his or her] limitations" and represents an assessment "based on all the relevant evidence." 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1545(a)(1), 416.945(a)(1). The RFC must consider all of the claimant's impairments, including those that are not severe. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(e), 416.945(a)(2); Social Security Ruling ("SSR") 96-8p.

If the claimant cannot perform his or her past relevant work or has no past relevant work, the ALJ proceeds to the fifth step and must determine whether the impairment prevents the claimant from performing any other substantial gainful activity. Moore v. Apfel , 216 F.3d 864, 869 (9th Cir. 2000). The claimant bears the burden of proving steps one through four, consistent with the general rule that at all times the burden is on the claimant to establish his or her entitlement to benefits. Parra , 481 F.3d at 746. Once this prima facie case is established by the claimant, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that the claimant may perform other gainful activity. Lounsburry v. Barnhart , 468 F.3d 1111, 1114 (9th Cir. 2006). To support a finding that a claimant is not disabled at step five, the Commissioner must provide evidence demonstrating that other work exists in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can do, given his or her RFC, age, education, and work experience. 20 C.F.R. § 416.912(g). If the Commissioner cannot meet this burden, then the claimant is disabled and entitled to benefits. Id.

THE ALJ DECISION

In this case, the ALJ determined at step one of the sequential process that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since July 1, 2007, the alleged onset date. (AR 10, 268.)

At step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the following combination of medically determinable severe impairments: bilateral knee osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, obesity, bipolar disorder, and alcohol dependence. (AR 268.)

At step three, the ALJ determined that Claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments. (AR 268.)

The ALJ then found that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform less than the full range of light work with the following limitations:

Claimant can lift, carry, push or pull 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; he can sit eight hours out of an eight-hour workday, one hour at a time; he can stand or walk four hours out of an eight-hour workday; he can occasionally bend, stoop, and climb ramps and stairs; he can only occasionally operate foot pedals, bilaterally. Claimant is precluded from working at unprotected heights and around dangerous moving machinery; he is precluded from balancing, kneeling, crawling, and climbing ladders, ropes or scaffolds; he must avoid exposure to concentrated vibration and rough or uneven surfaces; and he is restricted to routine, repetitive tasks not involving contact with the public.

(AR 269-276.) In determining the RFC, the ALJ made an adverse credibility determination. (AR 270.)

At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is unable to perform any past relevant work. (AR 276.) The ALJ, however, also found that, considering Claimant's age, education, work experience and RFC, there are a significant number of jobs in the national economy that ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.