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Edwards v. Berryhill

United States District Court, C.D. California, Eastern Division

April 6, 2017

LAURIE C. EDWARDS, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          PAUL L. ABRAMS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I.

         PROCEEDINGS

         Plaintiff filed this action on October 9, 2015, seeking review of the Commissioner's[1] denial of her applications for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) payments. The parties filed Consents to proceed before the undersigned Magistrate Judge on November 10, 2015, and December 7, 2015. Pursuant to the Court's Order, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation (alternatively “JS”) on March 23, 2017, that addresses their positions concerning the disputed issue in the case. The Court has taken the Joint Stipulation under submission without oral argument.

         II.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was born on May 29, 1971. [Administrative Record (“AR”) at 155, 164, 976.] She has no past relevant work experience. [AR at 436, 976.]

         On January 8, 2009, plaintiff filed an application for SSI payments, and on January 14, 2009, she filed an application for a period of disability and DIB, alleging in both that she has been unable to work since January 1, 2001. [AR at 155-61, 164-70.] After her applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration, and after a hearing, an unfavorable decision was issued on September 30, 2010. [AR at 481-87.] Plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court in case number ED CV 12-1672-SH, and on June 25, 2013, the Magistrate Judge assigned to that matter remanded it for further proceedings. [AR at 523-30.] On August 4, 2014, a hearing was held after remand before a different ALJ, at which plaintiff appeared represented by an attorney and testified on her own behalf. [AR at 420-44.] A vocational expert (“VE”) also testified. [AR at 436-42.] On October 15, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision concluding that plaintiff was not under a disability from January 1, 2001, the alleged onset date, through October 15, 2014, the date of the decision. [AR at 977.] When the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review on August 21, 2015 [AR at 412-16], the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner. See Sam v. Astrue, 550 F.3d 808, 810 (9th Cir. 2008) (per curiam) (citations omitted). This action followed.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court has authority to review the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. The decision will be disturbed only if it is not supported by substantial evidence or if it is based upon the application of improper legal standards. Berry v. Astrue, 622 F.3d 1228, 1231 (9th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted).

         “Substantial evidence means more than a mere scintilla but less than a preponderance; it is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Carmickle v. Comm'r, Soc. Sec. Admin., 533 F.3d 1155, 1159 (9th Cir. 2008) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted); Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 720 (9th Cir. 1998) (same). When determining whether substantial evidence exists to support the Commissioner's decision, the Court examines the administrative record as a whole, considering adverse as well as supporting evidence. Mayes v. Massanari, 276 F.3d 453, 459 (9th Cir. 2001) (citation omitted); see Ryan v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 528 F.3d 1194, 1198 (9th Cir. 2008) (“[A] reviewing court must consider the entire record as a whole and may not affirm simply by isolating a specific quantum of supporting evidence.”) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). “Where evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the ALJ's decision should be upheld.” Ryan, 528 F.3d at 1198 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted); see Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006) (“If the evidence can support either affirming or reversing the ALJ's conclusion, [the reviewing court] may not substitute [its] judgment for that of the ALJ.”) (citation omitted).

         IV.

         THE EVALUATION OF DISABILITY

         Persons are “disabled” for purposes of receiving Social Security benefits if they are 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 twelve months. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A); Drouin v. Sullivan, 966 F.2d 1255, 1257 (9th Cir. 1992).

         A. THE FIVE-STEP ...


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