United States District Court, C.D. California
Honorable Jacqueline Chooljian UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
October 8, 2015, Christina Labete Cox
(“plaintiff”) filed a Complaint seeking review of
the Commissioner of Social Security's denial of
plaintiff's application for benefits. The parties have
consented to proceed before the undersigned United States
matter is before the Court on the parties' cross motions
for summary judgment, respectively (“Plaintiff's
Motion”) and (“Defendant's Motion”).
The Court has taken both motions under submission without
oral argument. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 78; L.R. 7-15;
October 13, 2015 Case Management Order ¶ 5.
on the record as a whole and the applicable law, the decision
of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED. The findings of the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) are supported by
substantial evidence and are free from material error.
BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION
March 2, 2012, plaintiff filed an application for Disability
Insurance Benefits alleging disability beginning on February
1, 2011, due to fibromyalgia, degenerative disc disease, a
lower lumber problem, depression, and chest pain.
(Administrative Record (“AR”) 23, 177, 206). On
June 21, 2013, the ALJ held an initial administrative hearing
(“Initial Hearing”) during which he heard
testimony from plaintiff (who was represented by counsel),
and a vocational expert. (AR 55-87). At a supplemental
hearing on December 10, 2013 (“Supplemental
Hearing”), the ALJ examined the medical record,
summarized the testimony from the Initial Hearing, and heard
additional testimony from plaintiff (who was again
represented by counsel), a medical expert, and a different
vocational expert (“vocational expert” or
“VE”). (AR 38-54).
February 19, 2014, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not
disabled through the date of the decision. (AR 23-33).
Specifically, the ALJ found: (1) plaintiff suffered from the
following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease at
multiple levels of the thoracic spine, disc protrusions at
¶ 3-5 with possible nerve root involvement at ¶ 4
and facet hypertrophy at ¶ 4-5, disc protrusions at
¶ 4-6 with associated neural foramina encroachment,
fibromyalgia, lower extremity polyneuropathy, and obesity (AR
26); (2) plaintiff's impairments, considered singly or in
combination, did not meet or medically equal a listed
impairment (AR 26-27); (3) plaintiff retained the residual
functional capacity to lift and carry 10 pounds occasionally
and less than 10 pounds frequently, stand and walk for two
hours in an eight-hour workday, sit for six hours per
workday, do occasional postural activity but no climbing of
ropes, ladders, or scaffolds, and plaintiff had no other
limitations except to avoid vibrations, temperature extremes,
and workplace hazards (AR 27); (4) plaintiff could not
perform any past relevant work (AR 31); (5) there is work
that exists in significant numbers in the national economy
that plaintiff could perform, specifically in the
representative occupations of film touch-up inspector, table
worker, and touch-up screener (collectively
“representative occupations”); and (6)
plaintiff's statements regarding the intensity,
persistence, and limiting effects of subjective symptoms were
not entitled to full weight (AR 29).
August 14, 2015, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's
application for review. (AR 1-6).
APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS
Sequential Evaluation Process
qualify for disability benefits, a claimant must show that
the claimant is unable “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 12 months.”
Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1110 (9th Cir.
2012) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A)) (internal
quotation marks omitted). The impairment must render the
claimant incapable of performing the work the claimant
previously performed and incapable of performing any other
substantial gainful employment that exists in the national
economy. Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th
Cir. 1999) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A)).
assessing whether a claimant is disabled, an ALJ is required
to use the following five-step sequential evaluation process:
(1) Is the claimant presently engaged in substantial gainful
activity? If so, the claimant is not disabled. If ...