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Cryer v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 31, 2014

GREGORY CRYER, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

CRAIG M. KELLISON, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff, who is proceeding with retained counsel, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security. Pursuant to the written consent of all parties, this case is before the undersigned as the presiding judge for all purposes, including entry of final judgment. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Pending before the court are plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 15) and defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment (Doc. 16).

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff applied for social security benefits on August 17, 2009. In the application, plaintiff claims that disability began on June 23, 2006. Plaintiff claims that disability is caused by chronic back pain. Plaintiff's claim was initially denied. Following denial of reconsideration, plaintiff requested an administrative hearing, which was held on May 6, 2011, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Mary M. French. In a June 21, 2011, decision, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff is not disabled based on the following relevant findings:

1. The claimant has the following severe impairment(s): degenerative disc disease and status post two-level diskectomy with fusion at L5-S1 and L4-5;
2. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals an impairment listed in the regulations;
3. The claimant has the following residual functional capacity: the claimant can perform the full range of sedentary work; specifically, the claimant can lift/carry ten pounds occasionally, less than 10 pounds frequently; he can sit for 6 hours in an 8-hour day; he can stand/walk for at least 2 hours in an 8-hour day; the claimant requires the ability to periodically alternate between sitting, 25-30 minutes, getting up and walking around for one minute, standing for one hour, and then sitting for 10 to 15 minutes; he can occasionally push/pull with both lower extremities; he is never able to climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; he can occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, and climb ramps and stairs; he can occasionally reach overhead with both upper extremities; and he must avoid exposure to extreme cold and hazards such as machinery and heights; and
4. The claimant is capable of performing his past relevant work as a drafter.

After the Appeals Council declined review on October 18, 2012, this appeal followed.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The court reviews the Commissioner's final decision to determine whether it is: (1) based on proper legal standards; and (2) supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. See Tackett v. Apfel , 180 F.3d 1094, 1097 (9th Cir. 1999). "Substantial evidence" is more than a mere scintilla, but less than a preponderance. See Saelee v. Chater , 94 F.3d 520, 521 (9th Cir. 1996). It is "... such evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales , 402 U.S. 389, 402 (1971). The record as a whole, including both the evidence that supports and detracts from the Commissioner's conclusion, must be considered and weighed. See Howard v. Heckler , 782 F.2d 1484, 1487 (9th Cir. 1986); Jones v. Heckler , 760 F.2d 993, 995 (9th Cir. 1985). The court may not affirm the Commissioner's decision simply by isolating a specific quantum of supporting evidence. See Hammock v. Bowen , 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989). If substantial evidence supports the administrative findings, or if there is conflicting evidence supporting a particular finding, the finding of the Commissioner is conclusive. See Sprague v. Bowen , 812 F.2d 1226, 1229-30 (9th Cir. 1987). Therefore, where the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, one of which supports the Commissioner's decision, the decision must be affirmed, see Thomas v. Barnhart , 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002), and may be set aside only if an improper legal standard was applied in weighing the evidence, see Burkhart v. Bowen , 856 F.2d 1335, 1338 (9th Cir. 1988).

III. DISCUSSION

In his motion for summary judgment, plaintiff argues: (1) the ALJ's determination that he can perform his past relevant work is not supported by substantial evidence; (2) the ALJ failed to resolve an inconsistency in the residual functional capacity finding; and (3) the ALJ ...


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