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Acevedo-Rodriguez v. Colvin

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

September 20, 2013

JUAN MARCOS ACEVEDO-RODRIGUEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, [1]) Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

CHARLES F. EICK, Magistrate Judge.

PROCEEDINGS

Plaintiff filed a Complaint on February 13, 2013, seeking review of the Commissioner's denial of benefits. The parties filed a consent to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge on March 12, 2013.

Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment on August 14, 2013. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on September 10, 2013. The Court has taken both motions under submission without oral argument. See L.R. 7-15; "Order, " filed February 19, 2013.

BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

Plaintiff asserted disability since May 14, 2007, based on a variety of alleged physical and mental impairments (Administrative Record ("A.R.") 54-60, 146-63, 173, 960-66). The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") examined the voluminous record and heard testimony from Plaintiff, a medical expert and a vocational expert (A.R. 18-254, 263-1552).

The ALJ found Plaintiff has certain severe physical and mental impairments, but retains the residual functional capacity to perform a limited range of light work (A.R. 23, 25). Relying on the testimony of the vocational expert, the ALJ found that Plaintiff could perform particular jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy (A.R. 29-30, 61-62). The ALJ deemed not fully credible Plaintiff's testimony regarding the severity of his subjective symptoms (A.R. 25-28). The ALJ rejected the opinions of Plaintiff's treating physician, Dr. Nina Trinh, who had opined Plaintiff could not perform even sedentary work (A.R. 27). The Appeals Council considered additional evidence, but denied review (A.R. 1-4, 255-62, 1553-1617).

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. section 405(g), this Court reviews the Administration's decision to determine if: (1) the Administration's findings are supported by substantial evidence; and (2) the Administration used proper legal standards. See Carmickle v. Commissioner , 533 F.3d 1155, 1159 (9th Cir. 2008); Hoopai v. Astrue , 499 F.3d 1071, 1074 (9th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales , 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (citation and quotations omitted); Widmark v. Barnhart , 454 F.3d 1063, 1067 (9th Cir. 2006).

Where, as here, the Appeals Council considered additional material but denied review, the additional material becomes part of the Administrative Record for purposes of the Court's analysis. See Brewes v. Commissioner , 682 F.3d 1157, 1163 (9th Cir. 2012) ("[W]hen the Appeals Council considers new evidence in deciding whether to review a decision of the ALJ, that evidence becomes part of the administrative record, which the district court must consider when reviewing the Commissioner's final decision for substantial evidence."; expressly adopting Ramirez v. Shalala , 8 F.3d 1449, 1452 (9th Cir. 1993)); Taylor v. Commissioner , 659 F.3d 1228, 1231 (2011) (courts may consider evidence presented for the first time to the Appeals Council "to determine whether, in light of the record as a whole, the ALJ's decision was supported by substantial evidence and was free of legal error"); Penny v. Sullivan , 2 F.3d 953, 957 n.7 (9th Cir. 1993) ("the Appeals Council considered this information and it became part of the record we are required to review as a whole"); see generally 20 C.F.R. ยงยง 404.970(b), 416.1470(b).

DISCUSSION

After consideration of the record as a whole, Defendant's motion is granted and Plaintiff's motion is denied. The Administration's findings are supported by substantial evidence and are free from material[2] legal error. Plaintiff's contrary arguments are unavailing.[3]

I. Substantial Evidence Supports the ALJ's Residual Functional Capacity Determination.

Substantial medical evidence supports the ALJ's determination that Plaintiff can perform a limited range of light work. Dr. Ursula Taylor, a consultative examining internist, opined Plaintiff retains a physical capacity consistent with the ALJ's conclusions (A.R. 1082-87). Dr. Ernest Bagner, a consultative examining psychiatrist, opined Plaintiff retains a mental capacity consistent with the ALJ's conclusions (A.R. 1096-99). These doctors' opinions constitute substantial evidence supporting the ALJ's residual functional capacity determination. See Tonapetyan v. Halter , 242 F.3d 1144, 1149 (9th Cir. 2001) (consultative examiner's opinion is substantial evidence that can support ...


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