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Silverman v. Berryhill

United States District Court, C.D. California

March 22, 2017

DONNA F. SILVERMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, [1]Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          HONORABLE JACQUELINE CHOOLJIAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         I. SUMMARY

         On August 19, 2016, Donna F. Silverman (“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 Magistrate Judge.

         This 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; August 25, 2016 Case Management Order ¶ 5.

         Based 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.

         II. BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

         On August 3, 2012, plaintiff filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits alleging disability beginning on June 1, 2009, due to reflex sympathetic dystrophy, lumbar spine problems, back pain, depression caused by constant pain, limits on concentration, and right foot pain/weak leg. (Administrative Record (“AR”) 15, 169, 184). The ALJ examined the medical record and heard testimony from plaintiff (who was represented by counsel) and a vocational expert on February 12, 2015. (AR 31-69).

         On February 27, 2015, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled through December 31, 2014 (i.e., the “date last insured”). (AR 15-24). Specifically, the ALJ found that through the date last insured: (1) plaintiff suffered from the following severe combination of impairments: a history of left humerus fracture, lumbar radiculopathy, a history of right ankle fracture (status post surgery), and reflex sympathetic dystrophy (“RSD”) of the right foot (AR 18); (2) plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled a listed impairment (AR 19-20); (3) plaintiff essentially retained the residual functional capacity to perform a range of sedentary work (20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(a)) with additional limitations[2] (AR 20); (4) plaintiff was capable of performing past relevant work as a Chief Computer Programmer (AR 23-24); and (5) plaintiff's statements regarding the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of subjective symptoms were not entirely credible (AR 23).

         On June 23, 2016, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's application for review. (AR 1).

         III. APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS

         A. Sequential Evaluation Process

         To 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)).

         In 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 not, proceed to step two.
(2) Is the claimant's alleged impairment sufficiently severe to limit the claimant's ability to work? If not, the claimant is not disabled. If so, proceed to step three.
(3) Does the claimant's impairment, or combination of impairments, meet or equal an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1? If so, the claimant is disabled. If not, proceed to step four.
(4) Does the claimant possess the residual functional capacity to perform claimant's past relevant work? If so, the claimant is not disabled. If not, proceed to step five.
(5) Does the claimant's residual functional capacity, when considered with the claimant's age, education, and work experience, allow the claimant to adjust to other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy? If so, the claimant is not disabled. If not, the claimant is disabled.

Stout v. Commissioner, Social Security Administration, 454 F.3d 1050, 1052 (9th Cir. 2006) (citations omitted); see also 20 C.F.R. ยง 404.1520(a)(4) (explaining five-step ...


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