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Esquivel-Rocha v. Colvin

United States District Court, C.D. California

July 1, 2014

RACHELLE ESQUIVEL-ROCHA, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

SHERI PYM, Magistrate Judge.

I.

INTRODUCTION

On August 21, 2013, plaintiff Rachelle Esquivel-Rocha filed a complaint against defendant, the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner"), seeking review of a denial of Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"). Both plaintiff and defendant have consented to proceed for all purposes before the assigned Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).

Plaintiff presents two disputed issues for adjudication: (1) whether the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") properly rejected the opinion of Dr. Rubalcava; and (2) whether the ALJ provided clear and convincing reasons for discounting plaintiff's credibility.

Having carefully studied, inter alia, the parties' written submissions, the Administrative Record ("AR"), and the decision of the ALJ, the court concludes that, as detailed herein, there is substantial evidence in the record, taken as whole, to support the ALJ's decision. First, the ALJ properly considered the opinions of Dr. Rubalcava, and gave specific and legitimate reasons supported by substantial evidence for rejecting them. Second, the ALJ properly discounted plaintiff's credibility based on the clear and convincing reasons stated. Therefore, the court affirms the Commissioner's decision denying benefits.

II.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, who was fifty-one years old on her alleged disability onset date, is a high-school graduate with vocational training in medical billing. AR 39-40, 136. Her past experience includes positions as an accounting clerk with various companies. AR 70-71, 161. On May 14, 2010, plaintiff filed for DIB alleging a disability onset date of August 24, 2009 due to: diabetes, neuropathy in both legs, and migraines. AR 136, 160. The Commissioner denied plaintiff's application, after which she filed a request for a hearing.

On October 27, 2011, plaintiff, represented by council, appeared and testified at a hearing before the ALJ. AR 36-69. Laurence Gordon, a vocational expert, and William Rocha, plaintiff's husband, also testified. AR 70-78.

On January 26, 2012, the ALJ denied plaintiff's request for benefits. AR 22-31. Applying the five-step sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found, at step one, that plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 24, 2009. AR 24.

At step two, the ALJ found plaintiff to have the following medically determinable impairments, which, in combination, are severe: degenerative disc disease, degenerative changes and facet arthropathy of the lumbosacral spine, diabetes mellitus with peripheral neuropathy, hypertension, headaches, and mood disorder. Id.

At step three, the ALJ found plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526. AR 25.

The ALJ then assessed plaintiff's residual functional capacity ("RFC"), [1] and determined plaintiff could perform a full range of light work including the ability to: lift/carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; stand/walk for six hours of an eight-hour day; and sit six hours of an eight-hour day. AR 27.

At step four, the ALJ found plaintiff is capable of performing her past relevant work as an accounting clerk. AR 31 Accordingly, the ALJ found plaintiff not disabled as defined in the Social Security Act. Id.

Plaintiff filed a timely appeal to the Appeals Council, which was denied. AR 4-7, 16. The ALJ's decision stands as the final decision of the Commissioner.

III.

STANDARD OF ...


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