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Ibarra v. Berryhill

United States District Court, C.D. California

May 9, 2017

YVONNE R. IBARRA, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [1]Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF REMAND

          ALKA SAGAR UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Pursuant to Sentence 4 of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that this matter is remanded for further administrative action consistent with this Opinion.

         I. PROCEEDINGS

         On April 27, 2012, Plaintiff Yvonne R. Ibarra (“Plaintiff”) applied for social security benefits alleging a disabling condition beginning April 1, 2010. (AR 143). On November 4, 2013, Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) William K. Mueller examined the records and heard testimony from Plaintiff and vocational expert (“V.E.”) David Rinehart. (AR 31-58). On December 4, 2013, the ALJ denied Plaintiff benefits in a written decision. (AR 14-26). The Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's decision. (AR 1-3).

         On June 8, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) alleging that the Social Security Administration erred in denying benefits. (Docket Entry No. 1). On November 15, 2016, Defendant filed an Answer to the Complaint, (Docket Entry No. 15), and the Certified Administrative Record (“AR”), (Docket Entry No. 16). The parties have consented to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge. (Docket Entry Nos. 11, 12). On February 9, 2017, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation (“Joint Stip.”) setting forth their respective positions on Plaintiff's claims. (Docket Entry No. 17).

         II. SUMMARY OF ALJ'S DECISION

         The ALJ applied the five-step process in evaluating Plaintiff's case. (AR 17-19). At step one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity after the date of her application. (AR 19). At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's severe impairments included a right hip replacement and obesity. (AR 19). In making this finding, the ALJ ruled that Plaintiff's medically determinable adjustment disorder did not constitute a severe mental impairment. (AR 20). At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or equal a listing found in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (AR 20-21).

         Before proceeding to step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work, “except occasionally perform postural activities.” (AR 21). In making his RFC finding, the ALJ ruled that Plaintiff's allegations concerning the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of her symptoms were “less than fully credible.” (AR 22).

         At step four, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was able to perform past relevant work as a waitress, owner/operator of a painting company, personnel recruiter, and assistant manager. (AR 25-26). Accordingly, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. (AR 26).

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         This court reviews the Administration's decision to determine if the decision is free of legal error and supported by substantial evidence. See Brewes v. Commissioner of Soc. Sec. Admin., 682 F.3d 1157, 1161 (9th Cir. 2012). “Substantial evidence” is more than a mere scintilla, but less than a preponderance. Garrison v. Colvin, 759 F.3d 995, 1009 (9th Cir. 2014). 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.” Aukland v. Massanari, 257 F.3d 1033, 1035 (9th Cir. 2001) (internal quotation omitted). As a result, “[i]f the evidence can support either affirming or reversing the ALJ's conclusion, [a court] may not substitute [its] judgment for that of the ALJ.” Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006).

         IV. PLAINTIFF'S CONTENTIONS

         Plaintiff raises two grounds for relief. First, Plaintiff claims that the ALJ's RFC assessment was not supported by substantial evidence because the ALJ improperly determined that Plaintiff's lumbar spine impairment and adjustment disorder were not “severe” impairments. (See Joint Stip. at 4-7). Second, Plaintiff claims that the ALJ provided insufficient reasons for rejecting her subjective complaints. (Id. at 13-15).

         V. DISCUSSION

         After reviewing the record, the Court finds that Plaintiff's claim regarding her adjustment disorder warrants remand for further consideration. The Court ...


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