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Bigolin v. Berryhill

United States District Court, C.D. California

May 18, 2017

KRISTIN BIGOLIN, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ALICIA G. ROSENBERG United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff filed this action on June 20, 2016. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before the magistrate judge. (Dkt. Nos. 7, 10.) On April 27, 2017, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation (“JS”) that addressed the disputed issues. The court has taken the matter under submission without oral argument.

         Having reviewed the entire file, the court reverses the decision of the Commissioner and remands for reconsideration of whether Bigolin (1) requires a sit/stand option; and (2) is capable of performing occasional postural activities such as climbing, balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching and crawling.

         I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On May 28, 2013, Bigolin filed an application for disability insurance benefits and alleged an onset date of March 25, 2013. Administrative Record (“AR”) 11. The application was denied initially and on reconsideration. AR 11, 60, 73. Bigolin requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). On December 12, 2014, the ALJ conducted a hearing at which Bigolin and a vocational expert testified. AR 27-47. On January 30, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 8-23. On April 25, 2016, the Appeals Council denied the request for review. AR 1-3. This action followed.

         II. 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. Moncada v. Chater, 60 F.3d 521, 523 (9th Cir. 1995) (per curiam); Drouin v. Sullivan, 966 F.2d 1255, 1257 (9th Cir. 1992).

         “Substantial evidence” means “more than a mere scintilla but less than a preponderance - it is such relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support the conclusion.” Moncada, 60 F.3d at 523. In 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. Drouin, 966 F.2d at 1257. When the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the court must defer to the Commissioner's decision. Moncada, 60 F.3d at 523.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Disability

         A person qualifies as disabled, and thereby eligible for such benefits, “only if his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy.” Barnhart v. Thomas, 540 U.S. 20, 21-22, 124 S.Ct. 376, 157 L.Ed.2d 333 (2003) (citation and quotation marks omitted).

         B. The ALJ's Findings

         The ALJ found that Bigolin met the insured status requirements through December 31, 2017. AR 13. Following the five-step sequential analysis applicable to disability determinations, Lounsburry v. Barnhart, 468 F.3d 1111, 1114 (9th Cir. 2006), [1]the ALJ found that Bigolin had the severe impairments of post-traumatic osteoarthritis of the left knee, status post 12 knee surgeries; internal derangement of the left knee post arthroscopic surgery; lumbar musculoligamentous strain with lumbar radiculopathy; iliotibial band friction syndrome; migraines; insomnia; bilateral knee pain with tingling of left knee to toes; and intermittent asthma. AR 13.

         The ALJ found that Bigolin had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform sedentary work except that she cannot push or pull with the left lower extremity; she can occasionally perform postural activities such as climbing, balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching and crawling but cannot climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds; and she must avoid concentrated exposure to pulmonary irritants such as fumes, odors, dusts and gases, and hazards such as machinery and heights. AR 16. She is unable to perform past relevant work but there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that she can perform, such as addressor, telephone quotation clerk and document preparer. AR 20-22.

         C. Credibility

         “To determine whether a claimant's testimony regarding subjective pain or symptoms is credible, an ALJ must engage in a two-step analysis.” Lingenfelter v. Astrue, 504 F.3d 1028, 1035-36 (9th Cir. 2007). At step one, “the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has presented objective medical evidence of an underlying impairment ‘which could reasonably be expected to produce the pain or ...


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