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Cavazos v. Colvin

United States District Court, C.D. California, Eastern Division

April 23, 2014

JOANNE CAVAZOS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

DOUGLAS F. McCORMICK, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Joanne Cavazos appeals from the denial of her application for Social Security benefits. On appeal, the Court concludes that, contrary to Plaintiff's contentions, the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") did not discredit Plaintiff's subjective symptoms as to the functional capacity of her left hand. Therefore, the Court affirms the ALJ's decision.

I.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed her application for disability insurance benefits on May 6, 2010, alleging disability beginning July 19, 2006. Administrative Record ("AR") 23. After Plaintiff's application was denied, she requested a hearing before an ALJ. AR 124-25. A hearing was held on January 18, 2012, at which Plaintiff testified, as did a vocational expert ("VE"). AR 65-105. On March 2, 2012, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled because she was capable of performing her past relevant work as a counter clerk. AR 23-36. As part of this ruling, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform "light work" with the following additional limitations:

[T]he claimant can lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently with the dominant, right upper extremity; she can stand and/or walk for six hours out of an eight-hour workday with regular breaks; she can sit for six hours out of an eight-hour workday with regular breaks; she must constantly flex her left hand, which allows her to perform only minimal handling and fingering with her left hand; she can occasionally push and pull with the left upper extremity; she cannot perform overhead reaching with the left upper extremity; and she can perform simple repetitive tasks.

AR 28. When presented with a hypothetical that contained these limitations, the VE testified that such a person would be capable of performing the work of a counter clerk as generally performed in the national and regional economies. AR 101-03. The ALJ relied on the VE's testimony to reach his unfavorable decision. AR 36.

II.

ISSUE PRESENTED

Plaintiff contends that the ALJ improperly discredited Plaintiff's subjective symptom testimony as to her ability to use her left hand. See Joint Stipulation ("JS") at 4-9.

III.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. ยง 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 ...


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