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Bradley v. Colvin

United States District Court, C.D. California

January 2, 2015

DONALD LEE BRADLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

ALKA SAGAR, Magistrate Judge.

PROCEEDINGS

On July 29, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Complaint seeking review of the Commissioner's denial of Plaintiff's application for supplemental security income ("SSI"). (Docket Entry No. 3). On August 22, 2013, the matter was transferred and referred to the current Magistrate Judge. (Docket Entry No. 12). The parties thereafter consented to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge (Docket Entry Nos. 14-15). On December 9, 2013, Defendant filed an Answer and the Administrative Record ("A.R."). (Docket Entry Nos. 17-20). On January 8, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Memorandum of Points and Authorities in support of the Complaint (Docket Entry No. 20). On March 12, 2014, Defendant filed a Memorandum of Points and Authorities in support of the Answer (Docket Entry No. 24). On March 27, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Reply Memorandum (Docket Entry No. 25). The Court has taken this matter under submission without oral argument. See C.D. Local R. 7-15; "Case Management Order, " filed July 31, 2013 (Docket Entry No. 7).

BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

Plaintiff, a former restaurant and bar owner, asserts disability since January 28, 2010, based on alleged chronic arthritis in his neck, back, arms, and feet, depression, high blood pressure, a sleeping disorder and an eating disorder. (A.R. 22). The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") examined the record and held a hearing on February 21, 2012. (A.R. 34-67). Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, testified by teleconference. (A.R. 36-58). The ALJ also heard testimony from a vocational expert (A.R. 59-66).

On February 29, 2012, The ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's application for SSI. (A.R. 18-28). The ALJ made the following findings: (1) Plaintiff has the severe medically determinable impairments of cervical degenerative disc disease, depressive disorder, and alcohol abuse (A.R. 20); (2) Plaintiff's impairments do not meet or equal a listed impairment (A.R. 20-22); (3) Plaintiff retains the residual functional capacity to perform medium work, defined as follows: Plaintiff can "lift and carry 25 pounds frequently and 50 pounds occasionally, stand/walk for six hours and sit for six hours in an eight-hour day;" frequently climb ramps or stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; occasionally climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds; and is "limited to simple, routine, and repetitive tasks, involving only simple work-related decisions with few, if any, work place changes" (A.R. 22); (4) Plaintiff lacks the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform his past relevant work (A.R. 26); and (5) Plaintiff is able to perform jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy, including the occupations of hand packager and janitor. (A.R. 27).

Accordingly, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled at any time from the alleged disability onset date of January 28, 2010, through February 29, 2012, the date of the decision. (Id. 17). On May 21, 2013, the Appeals Council denied review. (A.R. 3-5).

PLAINTIFF'S CONTENTIONS

Plaintiff contends that the ALJ erred in (1) failing to articulate specific and legitimate reasons for rejecting his treating physician's opinion that he was disabled (Plaintiff's Mem 3-9); and (2) failing to articulate specific and legitimate reasons for rejecting the examining physician's opinion that he was capable of performing work at the light exertional level. (Id. 9-13).

STANDARD OF REVIEW

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 proper legal standards. 42 U.S.C. ยง 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).

DISCUSSION

After consideration of the record as a whole, the Court finds that the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence and ...


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