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Posada v. Colvin

United States District Court, C.D. California

April 26, 2017

BERTA I. POSADA, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER AFFIRMING THE DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER

          ALEXANDER F. MacKINNON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Berta I. Posada filed her application for disability benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act on June 3, 2012. After denial on initial review and on reconsideration, a video hearing took place before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) on June 25, 2014, at which Plaintiff testified on her own behalf with the assistance of a Spanish interpreter. In a decision dated August 11, 2014, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not under a disability within the meaning of the Social Security Act at any time from March 1, 2008, the alleged onset date, through December 31, 2012, the date last insured. The Appeals Council declined to set aside the ALJ's unfavorable decision in a notice dated March 9, 2016. Plaintiff filed a Complaint herein on May 2, 2016, seeking review of the Commissioner's denial of her application for benefits.

         In accordance with the Court's Order Re: Procedures in Social Security Appeal, Plaintiff filed a memorandum in support of the complaint on November 10, 2016 (“Pl. Mem.”); the Commissioner filed a memorandum in support of her answer on January 19, 2017 (“Def. Mem.”); and Plaintiff filed a reply on February 2, 2017 (“Pl. Reply”). This matter now is ready for decision.[1]

         II.

          DISPUTED ISSUE

         As reflected in the parties' memoranda, the sole disputed issue is whether the ALJ properly rejected plaintiff's pain and symptom testimony.

         III.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the Commissioner's decision to determine whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence and whether the proper legal standards were applied. See Treichler v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 775 F.3d 1090, 1098 (9th Cir. 2014). Substantial evidence means “more than a mere scintilla” but less than a preponderance. See Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Lingenfelter v. Astrue, 504 F.3d 1028, 1035 (9th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401. This Court must review the record as a whole, weighing both the evidence that supports and the evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's conclusion. Lingenfelter, 504 F.3d at 1035. Where evidence is susceptible of more than one rational interpretation, the Commissioner's decision must be upheld. See Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007).

         IV.

          FIVE-STEP EVALUATION PROCESS

         The Commissioner (or ALJ) follows a five-step sequential evaluation process in assessing whether a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920; Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 828 n.5 (9th Cir. 1995), as amended April 9, 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 is denied. Id. If the claimant is not currently 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 nondisability is made and the claim is denied. Id. If the 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. If the 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” to perform his past work; if so, the claimant is not disabled and the claim is denied. Id. The claimant has the burden of proving that he is unable to perform past relevant work. Drouin v. Sullivan, 966 F.2d 1255, 1257 (9th Cir. 1992). If the claimant meets ...


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