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Simmons v. Colvin

United States District Court, C.D. California

May 29, 2014

DANYLLE SIMMONS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

ALICIA G. ROSENBERG, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Danylle Simmons filed this action on August 14, 2013. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before the magistrate judge on September 18 and 27, 2013. (Dkt. Nos. 12, 13.) On February 19, 2014, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS") that addressed the disputed issues. The court has taken the matter under submission without oral argument. Having reviewed the entire file, the court affirms the decision of the Commissioner.

I.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On May 8, 2008, an application for supplemental security income was filed on behalf of Simmons, who was then a child under the age of 18.[1] AR 25, 228-30. On September 8, 2008, an application for child's benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act was filed on behalf of Simmons. AR 25. In both applications, Simmons alleged a disability onset date of November 23, 1990, her date of birth. AR 25. The applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. AR 25, 93-95. Simmons requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). AR 131. On February 22, 2010, the ALJ conducted a hearing at which Simmons and a vocational expert ("VE") testified. AR 45-67. On April 9, 2010, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 99-105. Simmons requested review by the Appeals Council. AR 110.

On May 18, 2011, the Appeals Council vacated the decision and remanded the case to the ALJ to obtain additional evidence concerning Simmons' musculoskeletal condition; further evaluate Simmons' subjective complaints; obtain evidence from a medical expert, if necessary; give further consideration to Simmons' residual functional capacity ("RFC") during the entire period at issue; and obtain supplemental evidence from a VE, if warranted. AR 110-12. On November 22, 2011, the ALJ conducted a hearing at which Simmons, a medical expert, and a VE testified. AR 68-92. On January 10, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision finding Simmons disabled until the age of 18 and not disabled as an adult. AR 22-40. On May 31, 2013, the Appeals Council denied the request for review. AR 1-5. This action followed.

II.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this court reviews the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. The decision will be disturbed only if it is not supported by substantial evidence, or if it is based upon the application of improper legal standards. Moncada v. Chater, 60 F.3d 521, 523 (9th Cir. 1995) (per curiam); Drouin v. Sullivan, 966 F.2d 1255, 1257 (9th Cir. 1992).

"Substantial evidence" means "more than a mere scintilla but less than a preponderance - it is such relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support the conclusion." Moncada, 60 F.3d at 523. In determining whether substantial evidence exists to support the Commissioner's decision, the court examines the administrative record as a whole, considering adverse as well as supporting evidence. Drouin, 966 F.2d at 1257. When the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the court must defer to the Commissioner's decision. Moncada, 60 F.3d at 523.

III.

DISCUSSION

A. Disability

"An individual under the age of 18 shall be considered disabled... if that individual has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, which results in marked and severe functional limitations, and which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(C)(i).[2] An impairment is "marked and severe" if it meets, medically equals, or functionally equals an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpart P, Appendix I. 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(d)(1). A claimant's condition "meets" a listed impairment if the claimant's impairment matches the listed impairment. Id. A claimant's condition "medically equals" the listed impairment by demonstrating medical findings that are of equal medical significance to the listed impairment. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926(b)(1)(ii). A claimant's condition "functionally equals" a listed impairment by showing either a marked limitation in two functional domains (out of six) or an extreme limitation in one domain. 20 ...


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