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Kanoff v. Berryhill

United States District Court, C.D. California

May 4, 2017

MATTHEW KYLE KANOFF, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          FREDERICK F. MUMM UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff brings this action seeking to overturn the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration[1] denying his application for Disability Insurance Benefits. Plaintiff and defendant consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Pursuant to the May 9, 2016, Case Management Order, on December 6, 2016, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation (“JS”) detailing each party's arguments and authorities. The Court has reviewed the administrative record (the “AR”), filed on September 26, 2016, and the Joint Stipulation. For the reasons stated below, the decision of the Commissioner is reversed and this matter is reversed and this matter is remanded for further proceedings.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On June 10, 2012, plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits. (AR 172-83.) Plaintiff's application was denied initially and on review. (AR 68-104.) Plaintiff then requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). (AR 122-23.) On June 19, 2014, ALJ Keith Dietterle held a hearing. (AR 27-56.) Plaintiff, a medical expert, and a vocational expert (“VE”) testified at the hearing. (See generally id.)

         On September 17, 2014, the ALJ denied plaintiff benefits in a written decision. (AR 10-25.) After reviewing the evidence, the ALJ determined that plaintiff possesses the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform:

a wide range of light work . . . except [plaintiff] is limited to lifting-carrying 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; is limited to sitting six hours and standing-walking six hours in an eight-hour workday; is limited to climbing ramps and stairs occasionally; is limited to frequently balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, and crawling; can never climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds; cannot do repetitive power gripping or grasping or repetitive fingering; cannot have any concentrated exposure to unprotected heights, dangerous or fast moving machinery, extremes in temperature, or vibrating tools; and is limited to no more than moderately complex tasks.

(AR 18.) In determining plaintiff's RFC, the ALJ assigned “little weight” to the opinions of Dr. Don Mills, plaintiff's treating physician. (AR 20.) Based on plaintiff's RFC and the testimony of the VE, the ALJ ultimately determined that plaintiff can perform his past relevant work and therefore is not disabled. (AR 20-21.)

         On February 26, 2016, the Appeals Council denied review. (AR 1-6.) Thereafter, plaintiff initiated this action.

         CONTENTIONS

         Plaintiff raises a single contention in this action:

         1. Whether the ALJ properly considered the opinions of plaintiff's treating physician, Dr. Mills.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the Administration's decisions to determine if: (1) the Administration's findings are supported by substantial evidence; and (2) the Administration used proper legal standards. Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996) (citations omitted). “Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance.” Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 720 (9th Cir. 1998) (citation omitted). To determine whether substantial evidence supports a finding, “a court must consider the record as a whole, weighing both evidence that supports and evidence that detracts from the [Commissioner's] conclusion.” Auckland v. Massanari, 257 F.3d 1033, 1035 (9th Cir. 2001) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         If the evidence in the record can reasonably support either affirming or reversing the ALJ's conclusion, the Court may not substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ. Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006) (citing Flaten v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 44 F.3d 1453, 1457 (9th Cir. 1995). However, even if substantial evidence exists to support the Commissioner's decision, the decision must be reversed if the proper legal ...


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