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Ledesma v. Berryhill

United States District Court, C.D. California

May 30, 2017

GARRY C. LEDESMA, 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 May 13, 2016. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before the magistrate judge. (Dkt. Nos. 12, 13.) On May 11, 2017, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation 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 further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On March 8, 2011, Ledesma filed an application for disability insurance benefits. Administrative Record (“AR”) 209.[1] The claim was denied initially and on reconsideration. AR 187, 205. On September 20, 2012, an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) conducted a hearing at which Ledesma and a vocational expert testified. AR 114-131. Ledesma amended the onset date from August 15, 2008 to February 12, 2011. AR 209. On October 5, 2012, that ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 206-219.

         On December 5, 2013, the Appeals Council granted review and remanded the ALJ's decision dated October 5, 2012. AR 224-226. On remand, the ALJ was ordered to obtain additional evidence concerning Ledesma's impairments, obtain evidence from a medical expert in the field of gastroenterology, give further consideration to Ledesma's residual functional capacity and, if warranted, obtain supplemental evidence from a vocational expert. AR 225-226.

         After remand, on April 14, 2015, the ALJ conducted a hearing at which Ledesma, a medical expert and a vocational expert testified. AR 132-165. On June 4, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 18-34. On March 17, 2016, the Appeals Council denied the request for review. AR 1-6. 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 ...


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