United States District Court, C.D. California
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER AFFIRMING DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY
JOHN E. McDERMOTT, Magistrate Judge.
On November 27, 2013, Rosa Morishita ("Plaintiff" or "Claimant") filed a complaint seeking review of the decision by the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying Plaintiff's applications for Widow's Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Social Security Income benefits. The Commissioner filed an Answer on March 5, 2014. On June 18, 2014, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS"). The matter is now ready for decision.
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), both parties consented to proceed before this Magistrate Judge. After reviewing the pleadings, transcripts, and administrative record ("AR"), the Court concludes that the Commissioner's decision must be affirmed and this case dismissed with prejudice.
Plaintiff is a 55-year-old female who applied for Social Security Widow's Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income benefits on June 2, 2011, alleging disability beginning December 2, 2008. (AR 10.) The ALJ determined that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since December 2, 2008, the alleged onset date. (AR 12.)
Plaintiff's claims were denied initially on June 30, 2011, and on reconsideration on September 15, 2011. (AR 10.) Plaintiff filed a timely request for hearing, which was held before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Alan J. Markiewicz on August 9, 2012, in Moreno Valley, California. (AR 10.) Claimant appeared and testified at the hearing and was represented by counsel. (AR 10.) Vocational expert ("VE") Kristan V. Sagliocco also appeared and testified at the hearing. (AR 10.)
The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on August 31, 2012. (AR 10-18.) The Appeals Council denied review on September 26, 2013. (AR 1-3.)
As reflected in the Joint Stipulation, Plaintiff raises the following disputed issues as grounds for reversal and remand:
1. Whether the ALJ has properly considered the relevant medical evidence of record in assessing Ms. Morishita's residual functional capacity.
2. Whether the decision properly considered Ms. Morishita's subjective complaints and properly assessed her credibility.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the ALJ's decision to determine whether the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence and free of legal error. Smolen v. Chater , 80 F.3d 1273, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996); see also DeLorme v. Sullivan , 924 F.2d 841, 846 (9th Cir. 1991) (ALJ's disability determination must be supported by substantial evidence and based on the proper legal standards).
Substantial evidence means "more than a mere scintilla, ' but less than a preponderance." Saelee v. Chater , 94 F.3d 520, 521-22 (9th Cir. 1996) (quoting Richardson v. Perales , 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson , 402 U.S. at 401 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
This Court must review the record as a whole and consider adverse as well as supporting evidence. Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin. , 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006). Where evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the ALJ's decision must be upheld. Morgan v. Comm'r of the Soc. Sec. Admin. , 169 F.3d 595, 599 (9th Cir. 1999). "However, a reviewing court must consider the entire record as a whole and may not affirm simply by isolating a specific quantum of supporting evidence.'" Robbins , 466 F.3d at 882 (quoting Hammock v. Bowen , 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989)); see also Orn v. Astrue , 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007).
THE SEQUENTIAL EVALUATION
The Social Security Act defines disability as the "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or... can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). The Commissioner has established a ...