United States District Court, C.D. California
JOSEPH L. SMITH, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
DECISION AND ORDER
E. BIANCHINI UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
of 2011, Plaintiff Joseph L. Smith applied for Disability
Insurance Benefits under the Social Security Act. The
Commissioner of Social Security denied the application.
Plaintiff, represented by Kenneth W. Drake, 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. 8, 52). On July 6, 2016, this
case was referred to the undersigned pursuant to General
Order 05-07. (Docket No. 54).
applied for benefits on May 31, 2011, alleging disability
beginning August 1, 2009, due to various impairments. (T at
The application was denied initially and on reconsideration.
Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”). On December 6, 2012, a hearing was
held before ALJ Tamara Turner-Jones. (T at 31). Plaintiff
appeared with his attorney and testified. (T at 34-52). The
ALJ also received testimony from Gloria Lasoff, a vocational
expert (T at 52-56).
December 28, 2012, the ALJ issued a written decision denying
the application for benefits. (T at 16-30). The ALJ's
decision became the Commissioner's final decision on July
18, 2014, when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's
request for review. (T at 1-6).
September 14, 2014, Plaintiff, acting by and through his
counsel, filed this action seeking judicial review of the
Commissioner's decision. (Docket No. 1). The Commissioner
interposed an Answer on February 12, 2015. (Docket No. 15).
The parties filed a Joint Stipulation on May 23, 2016.
(Docket No. 51). Pursuant to an Order of this Court, the
parties filed supplemental memoranda of law in October of
2016. (Docket Nos. 61, 62).
reviewing the pleadings, Joint Stipulation, supplemental
memoranda of law, and administrative record, this Court finds
that the Commissioner's decision should be affirmed and
this case should be dismissed.
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).
At this 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