United States District Court, C.D. California
JOSEPH F. ALBA, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
PYM United States Magistrate Judge
December 10, 2015, plaintiff Joseph F. Alba filed a complaint
against defendant, the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (“Commissioner”),  seeking a review
of a denial of a period of disability and disability
insurance benefits (“DIB”). The parties have
fully briefed the matters in dispute, and the court deems the
matter suitable for adjudication without oral argument.
presents two disputed issues for decision: (1) whether the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred at step
five; and (2) whether the ALJ properly considered the opinion
of a State Agency physician. Plaintiff's Memorandum in
Support of Plaintiff's Complaint (“P. Mem.”)
at 5-15; Memorandum in Support of Defendant's Answer
(“D. Mem.”) at 2-11.
carefully studied the parties' memoranda on the issues in
dispute, the Administrative Record (“AR”), and
the decision of the ALJ, the court concludes that, as
detailed herein, the ALJ did not err at step five and
properly considered the opinion of the State Agency
physician. Consequently, the court affirms the decision of
the Commissioner denying benefits.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
who was thirty-six years old on the alleged disability onset
date, is a high school graduate. AR at 49, 153. Plaintiff has
past relevant work as a truck driver. Id. at 44.
April 28, 2012, plaintiff filed an application for a period
of disability and DIB, alleging an onset date of April 9,
2007 due to diabetes, depression, anxiety/panic disorder, and
injuries to the back, shoulders, elbows, and neck.
Id. at 49. The Commissioner denied plaintiff's
application initially and upon reconsideration, after which
he filed a request for a hearing. Id. at 75-84.
January 10, 2014, plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared
and testified at a hearing before the ALJ. Id. at
30-48. The ALJ also heard testimony from Gloria Lasoff, a
vocational expert (“VE”). Id. at 44-47.
On March 24, 2014, the ALJ denied plaintiff's claim for
benefits. Id. at 10-26.
the well-known five-step sequential evaluation process, the
ALJ found, at step one, that plaintiff did not engage in
substantial gainful activity from the April 9, 2007 alleged
disability onset date through December 31, 2010, the date
last insured. Id. at 12.
two, the ALJ found plaintiff suffered from the following
severe impairments: acromioclavicular osteoarthritis;
hypertension; diabetes mellitus; gout; gastroesophageal
reflux disease; degenerative disc disease of the cervical and
lumbar spine; obesity; anxiety; depression; post-traumatic
stress disorder; adhesive capsulitis, right shoulder; and
right shoulder rotator cuff syndrome. Id.
three, the ALJ found plaintiff's impairments, whether
individually or in combination, did not meet or medically
equal one of the listed impairments set forth in 20 C.F.R.
part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (the “Listings”).
Id. at 13. The ALJ then assessed plaintiff's
residual functional capacity (“RFC”),
determined he had the RFC to perform a range of light work,
with the limitations that plaintiff could: lift and/or carry
twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently; stand
and/or walk for six hours out of an eight-hour workday for no
more than 20 minutes at a time; sit for six hours out of an
eight-hour workday with brief position changes after
approximately one to two hours; occasionally perform postural
activities; have occasional non-intense interactions with the
public; and perform unskilled work. Id. at 14-15.
The ALJ found plaintiff precluded from: climbing ladders,
ropes, or scaffolds; working around unprotected heights,
moving machinery, or other hazards; performing work requiring
hypervigilance or intense concentration on a particular task;
and performing overhead reaching or lifting bilaterally.
found, at step four, that plaintiff was unable to perform his
past relevant work as a truck driver. Id. at 24.
five, the ALJ found there were jobs that existed in
significant numbers in the national economy that plaintiff
could perform, including office helper, laundry worker, and
production inspector. Id. at 25-26. Consequently,
the ALJ concluded plaintiff did not suffer from a disability
as defined by the Social Security Act. Id. at 26.
filed a timely request for review of the ALJ's decision,
which was denied by the Appeals Council. Id. at 1-3.
The ALJ's decision stands as the final decision of the
STANDARD OF REVIEW
court is empowered to review decisions by the Commissioner to
deny benefits. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The findings and
decision of the Social Security Administration must be upheld
if they are free of legal error and supported by substantial
evidence. Mayes v. Massanari, 276 F.3d 453, 458-59
(9th Cir. 2001) (as amended). But if the court determines
that the ALJ's findings are based on legal error or are
not supported by substantial evidence in the record, the
court may reject the findings and set aside the ...