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Strickland v. Colvin

United States District Court, C.D. California

April 15, 2015

CONNIE JEAN STRICKLAND, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

MARGARET A. NAGLE, Magistrate Judge.

On February 24, 2014, plaintiff filed a Complaint seeking review of the denial of her application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). (ECF No. 4.) On April 2, 2014, the parties consented, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), to proceed before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge. (ECF No. 11.) On October 27, 2014, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("Joint Stip."), in which plaintiff seeks an order reversing the Commissioner's decision and remanding this case for further administrative proceedings; and the Commissioner requests that her decision be affirmed or, alternatively, remanded for further administrative proceedings. (Joint Stip. at 17.) The Court has taken the parties' Joint Stipulation under submission without oral argument.

SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS

On March 28, 2011, plaintiff protectively filed her application for SSI. (Administrative Record ("A.R.") 9, 44.) Plaintiff, who was born on March 6, 1964[1] ( id. 17, 44), claims to have been disabled since January 1, 1995, due to borderline personality, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, depression, shattered right arm, and because she cannot concentrate ( id. 44-45). Plaintiff has no past relevant work experience. (Id. 17.)

After the Commissioner denied plaintiff's claim initially (A.R. 74-78) and on reconsideration ( id. 74-78), plaintiff requested a hearing ( id. 88). On September 25, 2012, plaintiff, who was represented by an attorney, appeared and testified at a hearing before Administrative Law Judge James Nguyen (the "ALJ"). (Id. 23-43.) On November 21, 2012 the ALJ denied plaintiff's claim ( id. 9-18), 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 decision, the ALJ found that plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 28, 2011, the date of the application. (A.R. 11.) The ALJ determined that plaintiff has the severe impairments of: right rotator cuff tendinitis; residuals from a previous proximal right humeral fracture status post open reduction internal fixation; right shoulder osteoarthritis; a bipolar, borderline personality; learning disorders as well as borderline intellectual functioning; and posttraumatic stress disorder. (Id. ) The ALJ concluded 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. (Id. )

After reviewing the record, the ALJ determined that plaintiff has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work as follows:

[She] can lift and carry less than 10 pounds occasionally and less than 10 pounds frequently with the right upper extremity. Reaching is limited in all directions to no more than occasional with the right upper extremity but there are no limitations for reaching with the left upper extremity. [Plaintiff] can occasionally climb ramps and stairs but never ladders, ropes or scaffolds and she can no more than occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch or crawl. Mentally, [she] can understand, remember and carry out simple job instructions but would be unable to perform work that would require directing others, abstract thinking or planning. She can maintain attention and concentration to perform simple, routine and repetitive tasks in a work environment free of fast-paced production requirements. She can have occasional interaction with coworkers and supervisors but no interaction with the general public. She can work in an environment with occasional changes to the work setting and occasional work related decisionmaking.

(A.R. 13.)

Based on plaintiff's age, education, [2] work experience, and RFC, as well as the testimony of the vocational expert, the ALJ found that "there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that [plaintiff] can perform, " including the jobs of night cleaner, housesitter, housekeeper, and cleaner/polisher. (A.R. 18.)

Thus, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, since March 28, 2011, the date her application was filed. (A.R. 18.)

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 "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'" Id. (citation omitted). The "evidence must be more than a mere scintilla but not necessarily a preponderance." Connett v. Barnhart, 340 F.3d 871, 873 (9th Cir. 2003). "While inferences from the record can constitute ...


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