United States District Court, C.D. California
SAGAR UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
April 9, 2013, Plaintiff Eric Paul Stevens
(“Plaintiff”) applied for supplemental security
income based on a disabling condition beginning November 29,
2009. (AR 194). On August 20, 2014, Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) Sally C. Reason heard testimony from
Plaintiff. (AR 37-47). A supplemental hearing was held on
February 23, 2015, and the ALJ heard testimony from medical
expert (“M.E.”) Lynne Jahnke and vocational
expert Ronald Hatakeyama. (AR 48-59). On February 25, 2015,
the ALJ denied Plaintiff benefits in a written decision. (AR
21-30). The Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ’s
decision. (AR 1-3).
August 24, 2015, Plaintiff filed a Complaint pursuant to 42
U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) alleging that the
Social Security Administration erred in denying benefits.
(Docket Entry No. 1). On January 13, 2016, Defendant filed an
Answer to the Complaint, (Docket Entry No. 14), and the
Certified Administrative Record (“AR”), (Docket
Entry No. 15). The parties have consented to proceed before a
United States Magistrate Judge. (Docket Entry Nos. 10, 12).
On March 25, 2016, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation
(“Joint Stip.”) setting forth their respective
positions on Plaintiff’s claims. (Docket Entry No. 17).
reasons discussed below, the decision of the Administrative
Law Judge is AFFIRMED.
OF ALJ’S DECISION
applied the five-step process in evaluating Plaintiff’s
case. (AR 21-23). At step one, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
after the date of his application. (AR 23). At step two, the
ALJ found that Plaintiff’s severe impairments included
degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spinal area,
diverticulosis, hepatitis C, ventral hernia, and obesity. (AR
23). At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff’s
impairments did not meet or equal a listing found in 20
C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (AR 23-24).
proceeding to step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to
“lift and/or carry twenty pounds occasionally and ten
pounds frequently, stand and/or walk up to two hours in an
eight-hour workday (no more than thirty minutes
continuously), and sit without restriction, with no climbing
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, no more than occasional
postural activities (i.e., balancing, stooping, kneeling,
crouching, crawling, or climbing ramps or stairs); no
exposure to unprotected heights; and no concentrated exposure
to vibrations or extreme cold or heat.” (AR 24). The
ALJ also determined that Plaintiff required “the
ability to take a standing break once per hour (approximately
five minutes in duration) at his workstation.” (AR 24).
In formulating an RFC, the ALJ summarized medical evidence
including a July 2011 opinion by examining physician Karl
Epstein, M.D. (AR 25, 27-28). The ALJ gave Dr.
Epstein’s opinion “significant probative weight,
” observing that Dr. Epstein had stated that Plaintiff
could “work with proper motivation including sitting,
standing and walking no greater than [two] hours.” (AR
28) (second alteration in original).
steps four and five, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had no
past relevant work but could work as a telephone information
clerk or a lens inserter, optical goods industry. (AR 28-30).
Accordingly, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not
disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. (AR
court reviews the Administration’s decision to
determine if the decision is free of legal error and
supported by substantial evidence. See Brewes v.
Commissioner of Soc. Sec. Admin., 682 F.3d 1157, 1161
(9th Cir. 2012). “Substantial evidence” is more
than a mere scintilla, but less than a preponderance.
Garrison v. Colvin, 759 F.3d 995, 1009 (9th Cir.
2014). To determine whether substantial evidence supports a
finding, “a court must consider the record as a whole,
weighing both evidence that supports and evidence that
detracts from the [Commissioner’s] conclusion.”
Aukland v. Massanari, 257 F.3d 1033, 1035 (9th Cir.
2001) (internal quotation omitted). As a result, “[i]f
the evidence can support either affirming or reversing the
ALJ’s conclusion, [a court] may not substitute [its]
judgment for that of the ALJ.” Robbins v. Soc. Sec.
Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006).
contends that Dr. Epstein assessed limitations inconsistent
with Plaintiff performing full time work, and the ALJ was
therefore required to either provide specific and legitimate
reasons for partially rejecting Dr. Epstein’s opinion