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Romo v. Colvin

United States District Court, C.D. California

January 6, 2015

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


ALKA SAGAR, Magistrate Judge.

Pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. section 405(g), IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that this matter is remanded for further administrative action consistent with this Opinion.


On August 23, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Complaint seeking review of the Commissioner's denial of Plaintiff's application for a period of disability, and disability insurance benefits ("DIB"). (Docket Entry No. 1). On December 30, 2013, Defendant filed an Answer and the Administrative Record ("A.R."). (Docket Entry Nos. 10, 11). The parties have consented to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge. (Docket Entry Nos. 6, 7). On April 25, 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 August 29, 2013 (Docket Entry No. 5).


Plaintiff, a former assembler (A.R. 23), asserts disability beginning May 13, 2008, based primarily on a work-related lower back injury (id. 136). On December 7, 2011, the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), Troy Silva, examined the record and, with the assistance of a Spanish interpreter, heard testimony from Plaintiff, and from a vocational expert ("VE"), Connie Guillory. (Id. 24, 42-70).

On December 30, 2011, the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's application for DIB. (Id. 10-25). The ALJ found that Plaintiff had the severe impairments of degenerative disc disease of the cervical and lumbar spine; cervical, thoracic, and lumbar disc protrusions; bilateral cervical radiculopathy; bilateral lumbar radiculopathy; type II anterolateral acromion left shoulder; depressive disorder; and anxiety disorder. (Id. 12). The ALJ found no evidence to support Plaintiff's complaint of knee pain. (Id. 12-13). He also found Plaintiff's hypertension, hyperlipidemia, gastritis/GERD, irritable bowel syndrome, and diabetes mellitus to be nonsevere. (Id. 13).

The ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work and can lift and/or carry twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently; perform pushing and pulling within these weight limitations; can stand and/or walk for six hours of an eight-hour workday with regular normal breaks; can occasionally stoop, kneel, squat, twist, bend, crouch, and crawl; cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, but can occasionally climb stairs and ramps; is unable to perform prolonged or repetitive overhead work; and is limited to simple repetitive tasks. (Id. 14).

Relying on the testimony of the VE, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff is able to perform his past relevant work as an assembler. (Id. 23). Alternatively, the ALJ found that based on Plaintiff's age, education, limited ability to communicate in English, work experience, and RFC, Plaintiff was also capable of performing other jobs in the national economy such as hand packer (Dictionary of Occupational Titles ("DOT") No. 559.687-074); bagger (DOT No. 686.685-030); and folder (DOT No. 686.685-030). (Id. 24).

Accordingly, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled at any time from the alleged disability onset date of May 13, 2008, through December 30, 2011, the date of the decision. (Id. 25). On June 27, 2013, the Appeals Council denied review. (Id. 1).


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 ...

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