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Ramirez v. Colvin

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

January 27, 2014

RICHARD MICHAEL RAMIREZ, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

DOUGLAS F. McCORMICK, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Richard Michael Ramirez appeals from the denial of his application for Social Security benefits. The Court concludes that the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") correctly determined that Plaintiff's prior employment as a parking enforcer constituted "past relevant work." Therefore, the ALJ's decision is affirmed.

I.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed an application for Social Security benefits, alleging disability starting on May 26, 2008. See Administrative Record ("AR") 20. On May 14, 2012, a hearing on Plaintiff's claim was held before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). See id.

On June 29, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff Social Security benefits. AR 20-30. The ALJ followed the required five-step decision-making process mandated by 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. In the first step, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not engage in substantial gainful activity through his date last insured. AR 22. In step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's sole severe impairment was degenerative disk disease. AR 22-24. In step three, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet a listing. AR 24. Before proceeding to step four, the ALJ made a determination of Plaintiff's residual functional capacity ("RFC"). AR 24-29. At step four, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's prior employment as a parking enforcer qualified as past relevant work, and that Plaintiff was capable of performing that work within the limits of his assessed RFC. AR 29.[1] As a result, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not disabled, and the analysis stopped at step four. AR 29.

II.

ISSUE PRESENTED

The parties dispute whether the ALJ erred in calculating Plaintiff's average monthly income during his work as a parking enforcer, pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 404.1574, for the purpose of determining whether that employment constituted past relevant work under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1560.[2] See Plaintiff's Brief at 5-6; Defendant's Brief at 1-2.

III.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), a district court may review the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. The ALJ's findings and decision should be upheld if they are free from legal error and are supported by substantial evidence based on the record as a whole. Id .; Richardson v. Perales , 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Parra v. Astrue , 481 F.3d 742, 746 (9th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence means such relevant evidence as a reasonable person might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Richardson , 402 U.S. at 401; Lingenfelter v. Astrue , 504 F.3d 1028, 1035 (9th Cir. 2007). It is more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance. Lingenfelter , 504 F.3d at 1035 (citing Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin. , 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006)). To determine whether substantial evidence supports a finding, the reviewing court "must review the administrative record as a whole, weighing both the evidence that supports and the evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's conclusion." Reddick v. Chater , 157 F.3d 715, 720 (9th Cir. 1996). If the evidence can reasonably support either affirming or reversing, the Court may not substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ. Tackett v. Apfel , 180 F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th Cir. 1999).

IV.

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