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Ganahl v. Colvin

United States District Court, C.D. California

June 23, 2016

JAMES JOSEPH GANAHL, Plaintiff
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER AFFIRMING DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY

          JOHN E. MCDERMOTT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         PROCEEDINGS

         On November 5, 2015, James Joseph Ganahl ("Plaintiff" or "Claimant") filed a complaint seeking review of the decision by the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying Plaintiff's applications for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") benefits. The Commissioner filed an Answer on February 9, 2016. On May 17, 2016, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS"). The matter is now ready for decision.

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), both parties consented to proceed before this Magistrate Judge. After reviewing the pleadings, transcripts, and administrative record ("AR"), the Court concludes that the Commissioner's decision must be affirmed and this case dismissed with prejudice.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is a 49-year-old male who applied for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income benefits on December 23, 2010, alleging disability beginning April 13, 2010. (AR 19.) Plaintiff's claims were denied initially on March 8, 2011, and on reconsideration on August 31, 2011. (AR 19.) Plaintiff filed a timely request for hearing, which was held before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") John Kays on April 3, 2012, in Orange, California. (AR 19.) The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on July 19, 2012. (AR 19-28.) The Appeals Council denied review on August 30, 2013. (AR 1-3.)

         Plaintiff commenced an action in the United States District Court Central District of California on October 21, 2013 (SACV 13-1613 PJW). The Court remanded the case for further proceedings on July 30, 3014. (AR 576-691.) Pursuant to the Court's remand order, the Appeals Council directed the ALJ to offer Plaintiff the opportunity for a hearing, take any further action needed to complete the administrative record, and issue a new decision. (AR 500, 597-600.) Thus, the Plaintiff appeared and testified at a hearing[1] held before ALJ Kays on June 17, 2015, in Orange, California. (AR 500.) Claimant was represented by counsel. (AR 500.) Medical expert ("ME") Robert Campbell Thompson, M.D., appeared and testified via telephone. (AR 500.) Vocational expert ("VE") Timothy J. Farrell also appeared and testified at the hearing. (AR 500.)

         The ALJ issued another unfavorable decision on July 30, 2015. (AR 500-510.)

         DISPUTED ISSUES

         As reflected in the Joint Stipulation, Plaintiff raises the following disputed issues as grounds for reversal and remand:

1. Whether the ALJ properly determined that Plaintiff has a non-severe mental impairment.
2. Whether the ALJ fully and fairly developed the record.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the ALJ's decision to determine whether the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence and free of legal error. Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996); see also DeLorme v. Sullivan, 924 F.2d 841, 846 (9th Cir. 1991) (ALJ's disability determination must be supported by substantial evidence and based on the proper legal standards).

         Substantial evidence means "‘more than a mere scintilla, ' but less than a preponderance." Saelee v. Chater, 94 F.3d 520, 521-22 (9th Cir. 1996) (quoting Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         This Court must review the record as a whole and consider adverse as well as supporting evidence. Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006). Where evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the ALJ's decision must be upheld. Morgan v. Comm'r of the Soc. Sec. Admin., 169 F.3d 595, 599 (9th Cir. 1999). "However, a reviewing court must consider the entire record as a whole and may not affirm simply by isolating a ‘specific quantum of supporting evidence.'" Robbins, 466 F.3d at 882 (quoting Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989)); see also Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007).

         THE ...


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