United States District Court, C.D. California
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER AFFIRMING DECISION OF
THE COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY
E. MCDERMOTT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
March 2, 2016, Catalina Gontes (“Plaintiff” or
“Claimant”) filed a complaint seeking review of
the decision by the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying Plaintiff's
application for Supplemental Security Income benefits. The
Commissioner filed an Answer on June 9, 2016. On December 15,
2016, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation
(“JS”). The matter is now ready for decision.
to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), both parties consented to proceed
bef ore 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.
is a 48-year-old female who applied for Supplemental Security
Income benefits on September 17, 2012, alleging disability
beginning March 14, 2012. (AR 13.) The ALJ determined that
Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since September 17, 2012, the application date. (AR 15.)
claim was denied initially on November 30, 2012, and on
reconsideration on May 31, 2013. (AR 13.) Plaintiff filed a
timely request for hearing, which was held before
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Lawrence J.
Duran on April 14, 2014, in San Bernardino, California. (AR
13.) Plaintiff appeared and testified at the hearing without
the assistance of an attorney or other representative. (AR
13.) Vocational expert (“VE”) Elizabeth G.
Brown-Ramos also appeared and testified at the hearing. (AR
issued an unfavorable decision on July 21, 2014. (AR 13-23.)
The Appeals Council denied review on January 5, 2016. (AR
reflected in the Joint Stipulation, Plaintiff raises the
following disputed issues as grounds for reversal and remand:
1. Whether the ALJ has properly considered and assessed the
relevant medical evidence of record in this case supporting
Plaintiff's claim of disability.
2. Whether the ALJ has properly considered Plaintiff's
subjective complaints and properly assessed her credibility.
3. Whether the ALJ's decision at step number five is
supported by substantial evidence.
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
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).
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).
Social Security 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
. . . can be expected to last for a continuous period of not
less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. §§
423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). The Commissioner has
established a five-step sequential process to determine
whether a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§
first step is to determine whether the claimant is presently
engaging in substantial gainful activity. Parra v.
Astrue, 481 F.3d 742, 746 (9th Cir. 2007). If the
claimant is engaging in substantial gainful activity,
disability benefits will be denied. Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987). Second, the ALJ must
determine whether the claimant has a severe impairment or
combination of impairments. Parra, 481 F.3d at 746.
An impairment is not severe if it does not significantly
limit the claimant's ability to work. Smolen, 80
F.3d at 1290. Third, the ALJ must determine whether the
impairment is listed, or equivalent to an impairment listed,
in 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, Appendix I of the
regulations. Parra, 481 F.3d at 746. If the
impairment meets or equals one of the listed impairments, the
claimant is presumptively disabled. Bowen, 482 U.S.
at 141. Fourth, the ALJ must determine whether the impairment
prevents the claimant from doing past relevant work.
Pinto v. Massanari, 249 F.3d 840, 844-45 (9th Cir.
2001). Before making the step four determination, the ALJ
first must determine the claimant's residual functional
capacity (“RFC”). 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(e).
The RFC is “the most [one] can still do despite [his or