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Hahka v. Colvin

United States District Court, C.D. California

December 15, 2014

JANETTE E. HAHKA, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant

For Janette E Hahka, Plaintiff: Lisa C Gilinger, LEAD ATTORNEY, Lisa C Gilinger Law Offices, Santa Barbara, CA.

For Carolyn Colvin, Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant: Assistant U.S. Attorney LA-CV, LEAD ATTORNEY, Office of U.S. Attorney, Civil Division, Los Angeles, CA; Assistant U.S. Attorney LA-SSA, LEAD ATTORNEY, Office of the General Counsel for Social Security Adm., San Francisco, CA; Scott J Borrowman, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. Attorney's Office, Social Security Administration, San Francisco, CA.

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

FREDERICK F. MUMM, United States Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff brings this action seeking to overturn the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying her application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits. The parties consented, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge. Pursuant to the August 15, 2013 Case Management Order, on April 24, 2014, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation (" JS") detailing each party's arguments and authorities. The Court has reviewed the JS and the administrative record (" AR"), filed by defendant on April 7, 2014. For the reasons stated below, the decision of the Commissioner is reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On September 29, 2009, plaintiff filed an application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits. (AR 131-32.) The application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. (AR 64-67, 71-76.) Plaintiff requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (" ALJ"). (AR 77.) ALJ Mary L. Everstine held hearings on June 6, 2011 and September 19, 2011. (AR 32-53, 54-61.) Plaintiff appeared with counsel at both hearings and testified at the second hearing. (Id.) On October 18, 2011, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. (AR 8-25.) Plaintiff sought review of the decision before the Social Security Administration Appeals Council. (AR 7.) The Council denied the request for review on June 12, 2013. (AR 1-6.)

Plaintiff filed the complaint herein on August 6, 2013.

ISSUES

Plaintiff raises a single issue:

1. Whether the ALJ properly assessed plaintiff's credibility with respect to the symptoms related to her left upper extremity lymphedema.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the Commissioner's decision to determine whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence and whether the proper legal standards were applied. DeLorme v. Sullivan, 924 F.2d 841, 846 (9th Cir. 1991). Substantial evidence means " more than a mere scintilla" but less than a preponderance. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 28 L.Ed.2d 842 (1971); Desrosiers v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 846 F.2d 573, 575-76 (9th Cir. 1988). Substantial evidence is " such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401. This Court must review the record as a whole and consider adverse as well as supporting evidence. Green v. Heckler, 803 F.2d 528, 529-30 (9th Cir. 1986). Where evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the Commissioner's decision must be upheld. Gallant v. Heckler, 753 F.2d 1450, 1452 (9th Cir. 1984).

DISCUSSION

Plaintiff suffers from lymphedema in her left arm.[1] (AR 15.) At the hearing in her case, plaintiff testified that her left arm was almost always swollen. (AR 46.) She wore a compression sleeve on her left arm to treat her lymphedema. (AR 37, 46-47.) She had to manually drain the arm every night. (AR 47.) Plaintiff could not lift a gallon of milk with her left arm, because doing so exacerbated the swelling. (Id.) At most, she could use her left arm to steady a heavy object, such as a gallon of milk, carried with her right arm. (AR 44.) She usually had other people, such as her children, lift and carry heavy objects for her. (Id.) Plaintiff could not reach behind herself ...


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