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King v. Colvin

United States District Court, Central District of California

November 7, 2014

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.




On March 25, 2014, plaintiff filed a Complaint seeking review of the Commissioner's denial of her application for a period of disability, and disability insurance benefits (“DIB”), and supplemental security income (“SSI”). (Docket Entry No. 3). On August 12, 2014, defendant filed an Answer and the Administrative Record (“A.R.”). (Docket Entry Nos. 12, 13). The parties have consented to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge. (Docket Entry Nos. 9, 10). On October 29, 2014, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation (“Joint Stip.”) setting forth their respective positions regarding plaintiff's claim. (Docket Entry No. 15). The Court has taken this matter under submission without oral argument. See C.D. Local R. 7-15; “Order Re Procedures in Social Security Case, ” filed April 1, 2014 (Docket Entry No. 7).


Plaintiff asserts disability beginning April 21, 2010[1] based on a combination of alleged impairments. (A.R. 188). The Administrative Law Judge, Jennifer A. Simmons (“ALJ”), examined the medical record and heard testimony from plaintiff and Troy L. Scott, a vocational expert (“VE”), on September 6, 2012. (A.R. 27, 35-36, 70-75). The ALJ found that plaintiff has the severe impairments of status post colostomy, hypothyroidism, and overweight/obesity and the non-severe conditions of carpel tunnel syndrome and depression (A.R. 30-31), and that plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or equals the severity of a listed impairment. (A.R. 31).

The ALJ found that plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform medium work, and can “lift/ and or carry 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently . . . sit, stand and/or walk without any restrictions, but with appropriate breaks every two hours . . . should have bathroom privileges at the worksite . . . and would need one day off from work every four months for dilation of her stoma.” (A.R. 31).

Relying on the testimony of the VE, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was able to perform her past relevant work as a “[h]ome health aide, DOT[2] No. 354.377-014, medium, semi-skilled (SVP), [3] as generally performed pursuant to the DOT, but actually performed as light work as described by the [plaintiff].” (A.R. 35). Alternatively, the ALJ found that, in addition to her past relevant work, plaintiff was able to perform other jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy based on the VE’s testimony that plaintiff’s age, education, work experience and RFC rendered her able to perform the duties of hand packager (DOT No. 920.587-018), dry clean worker (DOT No. 361.687.018), and cleaner (DOT No. 381.687-018), which were all classified as medium, unskilled positions. (A.R. 35-36). The ALJ deemed plaintiff’s subjective complaints of disabling symptomatology not credible. (A.R. 32-34).

On October 31, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision finding that plaintiff was not disabled at any time from the alleged disability onset date of April 21, 2010 through the date of the decision and denied plaintiff's application for DIB and SSI. (A.R. 27-37). /// ///


Plaintiff contends that the ALJ erred in her assessment of plaintiff’s credibility. (Joint Stip. 5).


This Court reviews the Commissioner’s decision to determine if: (1) the Commissioner’s findings are supported by substantial evidence; and (2) the Commissioner used correct legal standards. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); see Carmickle v. Comm’r, 533 F.3d 1155, 1159 (9th Cir. 2008); Hoopai v. Astrue, 499 F.3d 1071, 1074 (9th Cir. 2007). “Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance.” Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 720 (9th Cir. 1998) (citing Jamerson v. Chater, 112 F.3d 1064, 1066 (9th Cir. 1997). It is relevant evidence “which a reasonable person might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Hoopai, 499 F.3d at 1074; Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996)). To determine whether substantial evidence supports a finding, “a court must ‘consider the record as a whole, weighing both evidence that supports and evidence that detracts from the [Commissioner’s] conclusion.’” Aukland v. Massanari, 257 F.3d 1033, 1035 (9th Cir. 1997) (citation omitted); see Widmark v. Barnhart, 454 F.3d 1063, 1066 (9th Cir. 2006) (inferences “reasonably drawn from the record” can constitute substantial evidence).

This Court “may not affirm [the Commissioner’s] decision simply by isolating a specific quantum of supporting evidence, but must also consider evidence that detracts from [the Commissioner’s] conclusion.” Ray v. Bowen, 813 F.2d 914, 915 (9th Cir. 1987) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted); Lingenfelter v. Astrue, 504 F.3d 1028, 1035 (9th Cir. 2007) (same). However, the Court cannot disturb findings supported by substantial evidence, even though there may exist other evidence supporting Plaintiff’s claim. See Torske v. Richardson, 484 F.2d 59, 60 (9th Cir. 1973). “If the evidence can reasonably support either affirming or reversing the [Commissioner’s] conclusion, [a] court may not substitute its judgment for that of the [Commissioner].” Reddick, 157 F.3d 715, 720-21 (9th Cir. 1998) (citation omitted).


“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 which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.’” Webb v. Barnhart, 433 F.3d 683, 686 (9th Cir. 2005) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 423 (d)(1)(A)). The ALJ follows a five-step, sequential analysis to determine whether a claimant has established disability. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520.

At step one, the ALJ determines whether the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful employment activity. Id. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i). “Substantial gainful activity” is defined as “work that . . . [i]nvolves doing significant and productive physical or mental duties[] and . . . [i]s done (or intended) for pay or profit.” Id. §§ 404.1510, 404.1572. If the ALJ determines that the claimant is not engaged in substantial gainful activity, the ALJ proceeds to step two which requires the ALJ to determine whether the claimant has a medically severe impairment or combination of impairments that significantly limits her ability to do basic work activities. See id. § 404.1520(a)(4)(ii); see also Webb, 433 F.3d at 686. The “ability to do basic work activities” is defined as “the abilities and aptitudes necessary to do most jobs.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1521(b); Webb, 433 F.3d at 686. An impairment is not severe if it is merely “a slight abnormality (or combination of slight abnormalities) that has no more than a minimal effect on the ability to do basic work activities.” Webb, 433 F.3d at 686.

If the ALJ concludes that a claimant lacks a medically severe impairment, the ALJ must find the claimant not disabled. Id.; 20 C.F.R. § 1520(a)(ii); Ukolov v. Barnhart, 420 F.3d 1002, 1003 (9th Cir. 2005) (ALJ need not consider subsequent steps if there is a finding of “disabled” or “not disabled” at any step).

However, if the ALJ finds that a claimant’s impairment is severe, then step three requires the ALJ to evaluate whether the claimant’s impairment satisfies certain statutory requirements entitling her to a disability finding. Webb, 433 F.3d at 686. If the impairment does not satisfy the statutory requirements entitling the claimant to a disability finding, the ALJ must determine the claimant’s RFC, that is, the ability to do physical and ...

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