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Alvernaz v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. California

April 2, 2014

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


ALLISON CLAIRE, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying her application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act ("the Act").[1] The parties' cross motions for summary judgment are pending, as is plaintiff's motion for remand. For the reasons discussed below, the court will grant plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 18) and motion for remand (ECF No. 13) in part, and will deny defendant's motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 19).


Plaintiff filed an application for DIB on August 11, 2010, alleging disability beginning on March 26, 2007. Administrative Record ("AR") 106-17. Plaintiff's application was denied initially and again upon reconsideration. AR 48-52, 53-57. On August 22, 2011, a hearing was held before administrative law judge ("ALJ") Daniel G. Heely. AR 28-72. Plaintiff appeared with attorney representation at the hearing, at which she and a vocational expert testified. See id. In a decision dated September 14, 2011, the ALJ found plaintiff not disabled. AR 10-18. The ALJ made the following findings (citations to 20 C.F.R. omitted):

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2012.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 26, 2007, the alleged onset date.
3. The claimant has the following severe impairment: fibromyalgia.
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform a wide range of medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) and SSR 83-10 specifically as follows: the claimant can lift and/or carry 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently, and she can sit, stand, and/or walk for six hours out of an eight-hour workday with normal breaks.
6. The claimant is capable of performing past relevant work as a clerk/typist and telephone clerk/receptionist. This work does not require the performance of work-related activities precluded by the claimant's residual functional capacity.
7. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from March 26, 2007, through the date of this decision.

AR 10-18.

Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ's decision by the Appeals Council, but the Council denied review on November 29, 2012, leaving the ALJ's decision as the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security. AR 1-3.


Born on November 15, 1977, plaintiff was 29 years old on the alleged onset date of disability and 33 years old at the time of the administrative hearing. Plaintiff has an associate's degree in business administration, AR 27, and last worked as an account clerk, a call center worker, and a data entry clerk, AR 41.


The Commissioner's decision that a claimant is not disabled will be upheld if the findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence in the record and the proper legal standards were applied. Schneider v. Comm'r of the Soc. Sec. Admin. , 223 F.3d 968, 973 (9th Cir. 2000); Morgan v. Comm'r of the Soc. Sec. Admin. , 169 F.3d 595, 599 (9th Cir. 1999); Tackett v. Apfel , 180 F.3d 1094, 1097 (9th Cir. 1999).

The findings of the Commissioner as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, are conclusive. See Miller v. Heckler , 770 F.2d 845, 847 (9th Cir. 1985). Substantial evidence is more than a mere scintilla, but less than a preponderance. Saelee v. Chater , 94 F.3d 520, 521 (9th Cir. 1996). "It means such evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales , 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (quoting Consol. Edison Co. v. N.L.R.B. , 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). "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 conflicts in medical testimony, and resolving ambiguities." Edlund v. Massanari , 253 F.3d 1152, 1156 (9th Cir. 2001) (citations omitted). "Where the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, one of which supports the ALJ's decision, the ALJ's conclusion must be upheld." Thomas v. Barnhart , 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002). However, the court may review only the reasons stated by the ALJ in his decision "and may not affirm the ALJ on a ground upon ...

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