United States District Court, C.D. California
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
E. SCOTT, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Treola Roberson (“Plaintiff”) appeals the final
decision of the Social Security Commissioner denying her
application for supplemental security income
(“SSI”). For the reasons stated below, the
Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED.
applied for SSI alleging disability beginning on November 1,
2010. Administrative Record (“AR”) 10. A hearing
was held before an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”) on February 24, 2014. AR 25-60. A second
hearing was held on November 17, 2014, before a different
ALJ. AR 61-101. The second ALJ issued a decision denying
benefits on December 8, 2014. AR 7-24.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Substantial Evidence and Harmless Error.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g), a district court may review the
Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. The ALJ's
findings and decision should be upheld if they are free from
legal error and are supported by substantial evidence based
on the record as a whole. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g);
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971);
Parra v. Astrue, 481 F.3d 742, 746 (9th Cir. 2007).
Substantial evidence means such relevant evidence as a
reasonable person might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion. Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401;
Lingenfelter v. Astrue, 504 F.3d 1028, 1035 (9th
decision of the ALJ will not be reversed for errors that are
harmless.” Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676,
679 (9th Cir. 2005). Generally, an error is harmless if it
either “occurred during a procedure or step the ALJ was
not required to perform, ” or if it “was
inconsequential to the ultimate nondisability
determination.” Stout v. Comm'r of SSA,
454 F.3d 1050, 1055 (9th Cir. 2006).
The Five-Step Evaluation Process.
person is “disabled” for purposes of receiving
Social Security benefits if he is unable to engage in any
substantial gainful activity owing to a physical or mental
impairment that is expected to result in death or which has
lasted, or is expected to last, for a continuous period of at
least 12 months. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A); Drouin v.
Sullivan, 966 F.2d 1255, 1257 (9th Cir. 1992). A
claimant for disability benefits bears the burden of
producing evidence to demonstrate that he was disabled within
the relevant time period. Johnson v. Shalala, 60
F.3d 1428, 1432 (9th Cir. 1995).
follows a five-step sequential evaluation process in
assessing whether a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4); Lester v.
Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 828 n. 5 (9th Cir. 1996). In the
first step, the Commissioner must determine whether the
claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful
activity; if so, the claimant is not disabled and the claim
must be denied. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i),
claimant is not engaged in substantial gainful activity, the
second step requires the Commissioner to determine whether
the claimant has a “severe” impairment or
combination of impairments significantly limiting his ability
to do basic work activities; if not, a finding of not
disabled is made and the claim must be denied. Id.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii).
claimant has a “severe” impairment or combination
of impairments, the third step requires the Commissioner to
determine whether the impairment or combination of
impairments meets or equals an impairment in the Listing of
Impairments (“Listing”) set forth at 20 C.F.R.,
Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1; if so, disability is
conclusively presumed and benefits are awarded. Id.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 416.920(a)(4)(iii).
claimant's impairment or combination of impairments does
not meet or equal an impairment in the Listing, the fourth
step requires the Commissioner to determine whether the
claimant has sufficient residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform his past work; if so, the
claimant is not disabled and the claim must be denied.
Id. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv),
416.920(a)(4)(iv). The claimant has the burden of proving he
is unable to perform past relevant work. Drouin, 966
F.2d at 1257. If the claimant meets that burden, a prima
facie case of disability is established. Id.
happens or if the claimant has no past relevant work, the
Commissioner then bears the burden of establishing that the
claimant is not disabled because he can perform other
substantial gainful work available in the national economy.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v), 416.920(a)(4)(v).
That determination comprises the fifth and final step in the
sequential analysis. Id.
404.1520, 416.920; Lester, 81 F.3d at 828 n. 5;
Drouin, 966 F.2d at 1257.
The ALJ's Application of the Five-Step Evaluation
one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial activity since her alleged onset date and, in
fact, had never worked. AR 13. At step two, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff had no severe physical impairments,
but the following severe mental impairments: “bipolar
disorder and polysubstance dependence, in remission.”
AR 13. At step three, the ALJ determined that these
impairments, or the combination thereof, did not meet or
medically equal the severity of one of the impairments in the
Listing. AR 14.
four, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the RFC to
perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but
with the following non-exertional limitations: “She is
limited to occasional detailed or complex tasks. She can have
frequent contact with coworkers, supervisors and the general
public. She would have 5 to 10 percent reduction in
maintaining concentration and attention spread out over a
normal workday. She also requires a low stress
environment.” AR 15.
five, relying on the testimony of a vocational expert
(“VE”), the ALJ determined that Plaintiff could
work as a photocopy machine operator, mail clerk/sorter, or
laundry worker, and that a significant number of such jobs
existed nationally. AR 19. The ALJ therefore concluded that
Plaintiff was not disabled. AR 20.