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Lewis v. Berryhill

United States District Court, C.D. California

May 9, 2017

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.




         Plaintiff Lesly Lynnene Lewis (“Plaintiff”) filed a complaint seeking review of Defendant Commissioner of Social Security's (“Commissioner”) denial of her application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”). The parties filed consents to proceed before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge [Dkts. 10, 11] and briefs addressing disputed issues in the case [Dkt. 20 (“Pltf.'s Br.”); Dkt. 23 (“Def.'s Br.”), Dkt. 24 (“Pltf.'s Statement of No Reply”)]. The Court has taken the parties' briefing under submission without oral argument. For the reasons discussed below, the Court finds that this matter should be remanded for further proceedings.


         On July 1, 2011, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB, alleging that she became disabled as of August 1, 2010. [Dkt. 14, Administrative Record (“AR”) 10.] The Commissioner denied her initial claim for benefits in October 2011 and then denied her claim upon reconsideration in May 2012. [Id.] On January 9, 2013, a hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) James P. Nguyen. [AR 27-46.] On January 31, 2013, the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's request for benefits. [AR 7-23.] Plaintiff requested review from the Appeals Council, but the Appeals Council denied her request for review on April 28, 2014. [AR 1-3.]

         Plaintiff filed a civil action on July 7, 2014. This Court remanded the case to the Commissioner for further proceedings on July 9, 2015. [AR 394-407 (Lewis v. Colvin, 5:14-cv-01326-GJS, Dkt. 27).] Subsequently, on February 23, 2016, a second hearing was held before ALJ Dante M. Alegre. [AR 358-389.] On April 9, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision again denying Plaintiff's request for benefits. [AR 449-467.] Plaintiff now seeks review directly from this Court. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.984.

         Applying the five-step sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b)-(g)(1). At step one, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of August 1, 2010 through her date last insured of December 31, 2015. [AR 454.] At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: obesity; migraines; carpal tunnel syndrome, right; peripheral neuropathy; obstructive sleep apnea (OSA); bipolar disorder; and depressive disorder with anxiety. [Id. (citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c).] Next, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments. [AR 455 (citing 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526).]

         The ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following residual functional capacity (RFC):

[L]ight work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b). Specifically, the claimant can lift/carry twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently; stand/walk for six hours out of an eight hour workday; sit for six hours out of an eight hour workday; occasionally climb ramps and stairs; never climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds, occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; and frequently handle and finger. The claimant can understand, remember and carry out simple job tasks, but capable of performing GED level 1, 2, or 3, the claimant is unable to perform work that would require directing others, abstract thought or planning, maintain attention and concentration to perform simple tasks in a work environment free of fast paced production requirements, with frequent interaction with supervisors, coworkers and the public. The claimant can work in an environment with occasional changes to the work setting and occasional work related decision making.

[AR 457.][1] Applying this RFC, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is unable to perform any past relevant work, but determined that based on Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, she could perform representative occupations such as mail clerk (DOT 209.687-026), office helper (DOT 239.567-010), and, assembler, electrical (DOT 729.687-010) and, thus, is not disabled. [AR 461-462.]


         Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the Court reviews the Commissioner's decision to determine if: (1) the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence; and (2) the Commissioner used correct legal standards. See Carmickle v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 533 F.3d 1155, 1159 (9th Cir. 2008); Hoopai v. Astrue, 499 F.3d 1071, 1074 (9th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (internal citation and quotations omitted); see also Hoopai, 499 F.3d at 1074.


         Plaintiff contends that the ALJ: (1) erred in assessing her RFC and (2) erred in the assessment of her credibility. [Pltf.'s Br. at 1-2.] As set forth below, the Court agrees with ...

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