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Valdez v. Berryhill

United States District Court, C.D. California

June 9, 2017

REGINA MARIE VALDEZ, 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 August 23, 2016. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before the magistrate judge. (Dkt. Nos. 10, 12.) On June 1, 2016, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation (“JS”) that addressed the disputed issue. The court has taken the matter under submission without oral argument.

         Having reviewed the entire file, the court affirms the decision of the Commissioner.

         I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         In January 2013, Valdez filed applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income alleging an onset date of November 17, 2010. Administrative Record (“AR”) 9. The applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. AR 9, 64-65, 92-93. Valdez requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). On January 7, 2015, the ALJ conducted a hearing at which Valdez and a vocational expert (“VE”) testified. AR 22-41. On April 10, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 6-17. On July 13, 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 reviews 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).

         B. The ALJ's Findings

         The ALJ found that Valdez met the insured status requirements through December 31, 2015. AR 11. 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 Valdez had the severe impairments of obesity; diabetes mellitus; neuropathy and chronic kidney disease. AR 11. She did not meet or equal a listing. AR 14. She had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform medium work except that she could lift/carry 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently; and sit, stand and/or walk six hours in an eight-hour workday. She must avoid jobs requiring good binocular vision and, as a safety precaution, must avoid work at unprotected heights or around dangerous unguarded moving machinery. AR 14. She was capable of performing past relevant work as a companion, as actually and generally performed. AR 17.

         C. Li ...


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