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Reyes v. Colvin

United States District Court, C.D. California

January 23, 2015

MARTHA REYES, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

MARGARET A. NAGLE, Magistrate Judge.

On July 15, 2013, plaintiff filed a Complaint seeking review of the denial of her application for a period of disability, and disability insurance benefits ("DIB"). (ECF No. 3.) On August 6, 2013, the parties consented, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), to proceed before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge. (ECF No. 9.) On March 17, 2014, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation, in which plaintiff seeks an order reversing the Commissioner's decision and remanding this case for the payment of benefits or, alternatively, for further administrative proceedings; and the Commissioner requests that her decision be affirmed or, alternatively, remanded for further administrative proceedings. (ECF No. 17 at 20.) The Court has taken the parties' Joint Stipulation under submission without oral argument.

SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS

On July 19, 2010, plaintiff filed an application for a period of disability and DIB. (Administrative Record ("A.R.") 10.) Plaintiff, who was born on March 19, 1977 ( id. 19), [1] claims to have been disabled since June 15, 2008 ( id. ), due to depression, anxiety, and panic attacks; hearing voices; insomnia; post traumatic stress syndrome; OCD; and fibromyalgia ( id. 129). Plaintiff has past relevant work experience as a data entry clerk, loan application clerk, and case aide. ( Id. 19.)

After the Commissioner denied plaintiff's claim initially, plaintiff requested a hearing. (A.R. 10.) On February 29, 2012, plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, appeared and testified at a hearing before Administrative Law Judge Joel B. Martinez (the "ALJ"). ( Id. 10, 26.) Vocational expert ("VE") Laurence Gordon also testified. ( Id. 10.) On April 13, 2012, the ALJ denied plaintiff's claim ( id. 10-21), and the Appeals Council subsequently denied plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision ( id. 1-3). That decision is now at issue in this action.

SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

In his April 13, 2012, decision, the ALJ found that plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2013, and that plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since June 15, 2008, the alleged onset date of her disability. (A.R. 12.) The ALJ determined that plaintiff has the severe impairments of obesity, fibromyalgia, and depression. ( Id. ) The ALJ concluded, however, that plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. part 404, subpart P, appendix 1 (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526). ( Id. )

After reviewing the record, the ALJ determined that plaintiff has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work, except that she: can perform postural activities only occasionally; cannot be exposed to extreme temperatures; cannot climb ropes, ladders, or scaffolds; cannot work around heights or hazards; is limited to simple work; can have no public contact; and can have occasional contact with peers and supervisors. (A.R. 12.) In making this finding, the ALJ considered the subjective symptom testimony of plaintiff, finding her credibility to be "poor" ( id. 19), as well as the medical evidence and opinions of record ( id. 13, 18-19).

Based on the testimony of the VE, the ALJ found that plaintiff is unable to perform her past relevant work. (A.R. 19.) Based on plaintiff's age, education, [2] work experience, and RFC, as well as the testimony of the VE, the ALJ found that plaintiff "is capable of making a successful adjustment to other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy, " including the jobs of electronics worker (Dictionary of Occupational Titles ("DOT") No. 726.687-010), small products assembler I (DOT No. 706.684-022), and bench assembler (DOT No. 706.684-042). (A.R. 20.)

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the Commissioner's decision to determine whether it is free from legal error and supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007). "Substantial evidence is more than a mere scintilla but less than a preponderance; it is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'" Gutierrez v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 740 F.3d 519, 522-23 (9th Cir. 2014) (internal citations omitted). "Even when the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, we must uphold the ALJ's findings if they are supported by inferences reasonably drawn from the record." Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1110 (9th Cir. 2012).

Although this Court cannot substitute its discretion for that of the Commissioner, the Court nonetheless must review the record as a whole, "weighing both the evidence that supports and the evidence that detracts from the [Commissioner's] conclusion." Lingenfelter v. Astrue, 504 F.3d 1028, 1035 (9th Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); Desrosiers v. Sec'y of Health and Hum. Servs., 846 F.2d 573, 576 (9th Cir. 1988). "The ALJ is responsible for determining credibility, resolving conflicts in medical testimony, and for resolving ambiguities." Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 1995).

The Court will uphold the Commissioner's decision when the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation. Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005). However, the Court may review only the reasons stated by the ALJ in his decision "and may not affirm the ALJ on a ground upon which he did not rely." Orn, 495 F.3d at 630; see also Connett v. Barnhart, 340 F.3d 871, 874 (9th Cir. 2003). The Court will not reverse the Commissioner's decision if it is based on harmless error, which exists only when it is "clear from the record that an ALJ's error was inconsequential to the ultimate nondisability determination.'" Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 466 F.3d 880, ...


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