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Bass v. Colvin

United States District Court, C.D. California

April 3, 2014

RONNIE WOODROW BASS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, [1] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

MARGARET A. NAGLE, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff filed a Complaint on November 30, 2012, seeking review of the denial of plaintiff's application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits ("DIB"). On January 14, 2013, the parties consented, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), to proceed before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge. The parties filed a Joint Stipulation on September 16, 2013, in which: plaintiff seeks an order reversing the Commissioner's decision and remanding this case for the payment of benefits or, alternatively, for further administrative proceedings; and the Commissioner requests that her decision be affirmed or, alternatively, remanded for further administrative proceedings. The Court has taken the parties' Joint Stipulation under submission without oral argument.

SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS

Plaintiff filed an application for a period of disability and DIB on October 14, 2009. (Administrative Record ("A.R.") 19.) Plaintiff, who was born on October 23, 1960[2] (A.R. 30), claims to have been disabled since April 3, 2009, due to depression, anxiety, cardiovascular disease, sleep apnea, asthma, irritable bowel disease, high cholesterol, and a history of testicular cancer (A.R. 19, 191). Plaintiff has past relevant work ("PRW") experience as a warehouse worker. (A.R. 29.)

After the Commissioner denied plaintiff's claim initially and upon reconsideration, plaintiff requested a hearing. (A.R. 19.) On April 28, 2011, plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, appeared and testified at hearings before Administrative Law Judge Lisa D. Thompson (the "ALJ"). ( Id. ) Medical expert Donald M. Blackman and vocational expert Frank "Nick" Corso, Jr. also testified. ( Id. ) On September 12, 2011, the ALJ denied plaintiff's claim (A.R. 19-31), and the Appeals Council subsequently denied plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision (A.R. 1-6). That decision is now at issue in this action.

SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

In her September 12, 2011 decision, the ALJ found that plaintiff meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2014, and plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 3, 2009, the alleged onset date of his disability. (A.R. 21-22.) The ALJ determined that plaintiff has the severe impairments of depressive disorder, obesity, history of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, and gastroesphageal reflux disease. (A.R. 22-24.) The ALJ also determined that plaintiff does not have any severe impairment related to his past episode of testicular cancer. (A.R. 24.) The ALJ concluded that plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526). ( Id. )

Afterrevie wing the record, the ALJ determined that plaintiff has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform:

medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) except that he: should avoid concentrated exposure to environmental irritants without proper ventilation; is also able to perform simple, repetitive tasks in a low stress work environment (defined as simple work related decisions with no production rate-pace work but where work would be essentially isolated); with no more than occasional changes to work setting and occasional supervision; and no more than occasion al interaction with supervisors, co-workers and the general public.

(A.R. 26.) In making this finding, the ALJ considered the subjective symptom testimony of plaintiff, which the ALJ found was not entirely credible, as well as the medical evidence and opinions of record. (A.R. 26-29.)

Based on plaintiff's RFC and the vocational expert's testimony, the ALJ found that plaintiff was unable to perform his PRW as a warehouse worker. (A.R. 29-30.) However, based on plaintiff's age, education, [3] work experience, and RFC, as well as the testimony of the vocational expert, the ALJ found that "there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that [plaintiff] can perform, " including the jobs of hospital cleaner, cleaner (industrial), and housekeeper/cleaner. (A.R. 30-31.)

Thus, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from April 3, 2009, the alleged onset date, through September 12, 2011, the date of the ALJ's decision. (A.R. 31.)

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the Commissioner's decision to determine whether it is free from legal error and supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. Orn v. Astrue , 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'" Id. (citation omitted). The "evidence must be more than a mere scintilla but not necessarily a preponderance." Connett v. Barnhart , 340 F.3d 871, 873 (9th Cir. 2003). "While inferences from the record can constitute ...


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