United States District Court, C.D. California
DECISION AND ORDER
E. BIANCHINI UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
April of 2010, Plaintiff Maryann Cabrera Castaneda applied
for Disability Insurance benefits under the Social Security
Act. The Commissioner of Social Security denied the
by and through her attorney, William M. Kuntz, Esq. commenced
this action seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's
denial of benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405 (g)
and 1383 (c)(3).
parties consented to the jurisdiction of a United States
Magistrate Judge. (Docket No. 10, 11, 19, 22). On December
12, 2016, this case was referred to the undersigned pursuant
to General Order 05-07. (Docket No. 18).
applied for Disability Insurance benefits on April 27, 2010,
alleging disability beginning April 1, 2009. (T at
135). The application was denied initially and
on reconsideration. Plaintiff requested a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”).
March 15, 2012, a hearing was held before ALJ Jesse J. Pease.
(T at 22). Plaintiff appeared with her attorney and
testified. (T at 26-40). The ALJ also received testimony from
Corinne Porter, a vocational expert. (T at 40-47).
March 27, 2012, ALJ Pease issued a written decision denying
the application for benefits. (T at 7-20). The Appeals
Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on February
14, 2013. (T at 1-7). Plaintiff commenced an action in United
States District Court for the Central District of California
seeking review of the Commissioner's decision. On
November 6, 2013, the Honorable Alka Sagar, United States
Magistrate Judge, approved a Stipulation between the parties
and remanded the case for further proceedings. (T at 392-98).
The Appeals Council in turn remanded the matter to an ALJ. (T
second administrative hearing was held on March 25, 2015,
also before ALJ Pease. Plaintiff again appeared with her
attorney and testified. (T at 315-320). The ALJ also received
testimony from Robin Generaux, a vocational expert (T at
323-331, 336-337), and Roger Castaneda, Plaintiff's
husband. (T at 320-322, 332-334).
Pease issued a second decision denying the application for
benefits on May 5, 2015. (T at 291-309). This decision now
represents the Commissioner's final decision.
September 1, 2015, Plaintiff, acting by and through her
counsel, filed this action seeking judicial review of the
Commissioner's denial of benefits. (Docket No. 1). The
Commissioner interposed an Answer on January 4, 2016. (Docket
No. 13). The parties filed a Joint Stipulation on April 12,
2016. (Docket No. 17).
reviewing the pleadings, Joint Stipulation, and
administrative record, this Court finds that the
Commissioner's decision must be affirmed and this case be
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. 2001).
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).
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 ...