United States District Court, C.D. California
DECISION AND ORDER
E. BIANCHINI UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
of 2012, Plaintiff Timothy Thompson applied for Disability
Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income
("SSI") benefits under the Social Security Act. The
Commissioner of Social Security denied the applications.
Plaintiff, represented by Disability Advocates Group,
Michelle J. Shvarts, Esq., of counsel, commenced this action
seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's denial of
benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405 (g) and 1383
parties consented to the jurisdiction of a United States
Magistrate Judge. (Docket No. 9, 11, 19). On June 1, 2016,
this case was referred to the undersigned pursuant to General
Order 05-07. (Docket No. 18).
applied for disability insurance benefits on May 4, 2012, and
SSI benefits on May 21, 2012, alleging disability beginning
October 21, 2010. (T at 12).The applications were denied
initially and on reconsideration. Plaintiff requested a
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ").
On February 21, 2014, a hearing was held before ALJ Edward C.
Graham. (T at 27). Plaintiff appeared with his attorney and
testified. (T at 30-43). The ALJ also received testimony from
Gail Maron, a vocational expert (T at 48-51), and Edna Scott,
Plaintiff's mother. (T at 43-48).
April 18, 2014, the ALJ issued a written decision denying the
applications for benefits. (T at 9-23). The ALJ's
decision became the Commissioner's final decision on
August 11, 2015, when the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review. (T at 1-6).
October 8, 2015, Plaintiff, acting by and through his
counsel, filed this action seeking judicial review of the
Commissioner's decision. (Docket No. 1). The Commissioner
interposed an Answer on February 23, 2016. (Docket No. 14).
The parties filed a Joint Stipulation on June 7, 2016.
(Docket No. 20).
reviewing the pleadings, Joint Stipulation, and
administrative record, this Court finds that the
Commissioner's decision should be affirmed and this case
must be dismissed.
Sequential Evaluation Process
Social Security Act ("the Act") defines disability
as the "inability to engage in any substantial gainful
activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or
mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or
which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous
period of not less than twelve months." 42 U.S.C.
§§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). The Act also
provides that a claimant shall be determined to be under a
disability only if any impairments are of such severity that
he or she is not only unable to do previous work but cannot,
considering his or her age, education and work experiences,
engage in any other substantial work which exists in the
national economy. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2)(A),
1382c(a)(3)(B). Thus, the definition of disability consists
of both medical and vocational components. Edlund v.
Massanari, 253 F.3d 1152, 1156 (9th Cir.
Commissioner has established a five-step sequential
evaluation process for determining whether a person is
disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. Step one
determines if the person is engaged in substantial gainful
activities. If so, benefits are denied. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404. 1520(a)(4)(i), 416.920(a)(4)(i). If not,
the decision maker proceeds to step two, which determines
whether the claimant has a medically severe impairment or
combination of impairments. 20 C.F.R. §§
claimant does not have a severe impairment or combination of
impairments, the disability claim is denied. If the
impairment is severe, the evaluation proceeds to the third
step, which compares the claimant's impairment(s) with a
number of listed impairments acknowledged by the Commissioner
to be so severe as to preclude substantial gainful activity.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii),
416.920(a)(4)(iii); 20 C.F.R. § 404 Subpt. P App. 1. If
the impairment meets or equals one of the listed impairments,
the claimant is conclusively presumed to be disabled. If the
impairment is not one conclusively presumed to be disabling,
the evaluation proceeds to the fourth step, which determines
whether the impairment prevents the claimant from performing
work which was performed in the past. If the claimant is able
to perform previous work, he or she is deemed not disabled.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 416.920(a)(4)(iv).
At this step, the claimant's residual functional capacity
(RFC) is considered. If the claimant cannot perform past
relevant work, the fifth and final step in the process
determines whether he or she is able to perform other work in
the national economy in view of his or her residual
functional capacity, age, education, and past work
experience. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v),
416.920(a)(4)(v); Bowen v. Yuckert, 482
U.S. 137 (1987).
initial burden of proof rests upon the claimant to establish
a prima facie case of entitlement to disability
benefits. Rhinehart v. Finch, 438 F.2d 920, 921
(9thCir. 1971); Meanel v. Apfel, 172 F.3d
1111, 1113 (9th Cir. 1999). The initial burden is
met once the claimant establishes that a mental or physical
impairment prevents the performance of previous work. The
burden then shifts, at step five, to the Commissioner to show
that (1) plaintiff can perform other substantial gainful
activity and (2) a "significant number of jobs exist in
the national economy" that the claimant can perform.
Kail v. Heckler, 722 F.2d 1496, 1498 (9th
Standard of Review
has provided a limited scope of judicial review of a
Commissioner's decision. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). A Court
must uphold a Commissioner's decision, made through an
ALJ, when the determination is not based on legal error and
is supported by substantial evidence. See Jones v.
Heckler, 760 F.2d 993, 995 (9th Cir. 1985);
Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1097
(9th Cir. 1999).
[Commissioner's] determination that a plaintiff is not
disabled will be upheld if the findings of fact are supported
by substantial evidence." Delgado v. Heckler,
722 F.2d 570, 572 (9th Cir. 1983)(citing 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g)). Substantial evidence is more than a mere
scintilla, Sorenson v. Weinberger, 514 F.2d 1112,
1119 n 10 (9th Cir. 1975), but less than a
preponderance. McAllister v. Sullivan, 888 F.2d 599,
601-02 (9th Cir. 1989). Substantial evidence
"means such evidence as a reasonable mind might accept
as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)(citations omitted).
"[S]uch inferences and conclusions as the [Commissioner]
may reasonably draw from the evidence" will also be
upheld. Mark v. Celebreeze, 348 F.2d 289, 293
(9th Cir. 1965). On review, the Court considers
the record ...