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Lopez v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, E.D. California

February 6, 2015

VICTOR RAYMOND LOPEZ, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

CRAIG M. KELLISON, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff, who is proceeding with retained counsel, brings this action for judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Pursuant to the written consent of all parties, this case is before the undersigned as the presiding judge for all purposes, including entry of final judgment. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Pending before the court are plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 15) and defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment (Doc. 16). For the reasons discussed below, the court will grant plaintiff's motion for summary judgment or remand and deny the Commissioner's cross-motion for summary judgment.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY[1]

Plaintiff applied for social security benefits on September 18, 2009, alleging an onset of disability on January 1, 1994, due to disabilities including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, learning disability, and obsessive compulsive disorder (Certified administrative record ("CAR") 144-46, 151-57). Plaintiff's claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing, which was held on May 23, 2011, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Trevor Skarda. In a June 28, 2011, decision, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff is not disabled[2] based on the following findings:

1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since September 18, 2009, the application date (20 CFR 416.971 et seq. ).
2. The claimant has the following severe impairments: obsessive-compulsive disorder (hereinafter "OCD"); attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (hereinafter "ADD"); and major depressive disorder, single episode. (20 CFR 416.920(c)).
3. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
4. After careful consideration of the entire record, I find that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional limitations: the claimant is limited to simple, routine, repetitive tasks; and is limited to low stress work (with only occasional changes in the work setting, and where only occasional decision-making is required).
5. The claimant has no past relevant work (20 CFR 416.965).
6. The claimant was born on January 24, 1991 and was 18 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the date the application was filed (20 CFR 416.963).
7. The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 416.964).
8. Transferability of job skills is not an issue in this case because the claimant does not have past relevant work (20 CFR 416.968).
9. Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform (20 CFR 416.969 and 416.969(a)).
10. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, since September 18, 2009, the date the application was filed (20 CFR 416.920(g)).

(CAR 20-28). After the Appeals Council declined review on November 27, 2012, this appeal followed.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The court reviews the Commissioner's final decision to determine whether it is: (1) based on proper legal standards; and (2) supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. See Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1097 (9th Cir. 1999). "Substantial evidence" is more than a mere scintilla, but less than a preponderance. See Saelee v. Chater, 94 F.3d 520, 521 (9th Cir. 1996). It is "such evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 402 (1971). The record as a whole, including both the evidence that supports and detracts from the Commissioner's conclusion, must be considered and weighed. See Howard v. Heckler, 782 F.2d 1484, 1487 (9th Cir. 1986); Jones v. Heckler, 760 F.2d 993, 995 (9th Cir. 1985). The court may not affirm the Commissioner's decision simply by isolating a specific quantum of supporting evidence. See Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989). If substantial evidence supports the administrative findings, or if there is conflicting evidence supporting a particular finding, the finding of the Commissioner is conclusive. See Sprague v. Bowen, 812 F.2d 1226, 1229-30 (9th Cir. 1987). Therefore, where the evidence is susceptible to more than one ...


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