United States District Court, C.D. California
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Jay C. Gandhi United States Magistrate Judge.
Lee Smith-Miles ("Plaintiff) challenges the Social
Security Commissioner's decision denying her application
for disability benefits. Specifically, Plaintiff contends
that the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") found
that she had certain "mild" mental
limitations, but failed to include them in the
hypotheticals to the vocational expert ("VE") and
incorporate them into the residual functional capacity
("RFC"). (See Joint Stip. at 4-7, 12). The
Court addresses Plaintiffs contention below, and finds that
reversal is not warranted.
Challenge to Hypotheticals Not Properly Preserved for
as a rule, "when claimants are represented by counsel,
they must raise all issues and evidence at their
administrative hearings in order to preserve them on
appeal." Meanel v. Apfel, 172 F.3d 1111, 1115
(9th Cir. 1999).
instant case, Plaintiff was represented by counsel at the
administrative hearing and was allowed to pose hypotheticals
to the VE, but did not mention the mild limitations she
complains are missing here. (AR at 55-63); see Howard v.
Astrue, 330 F.App'x 128, 130 (9th Cir. 2009)
(claimant waived argument that ALJ's hypotheticals were
inadequate where claimant's attorney had an opportunity
to pose his own hypotheticals but never mentioned the
allegedly erroneously omitted limitation).
the issue was not properly preserved for appeal.
The ALJ Properly Assessed Plaintiffs RFC
rule, when formulating a claimant's RFC, an ALJ must
consider all the relevant evidence in the record, including
medical records, lay evidence, and the effects of symptoms
reasonably attributable to medically determinable
impairments. See Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 466
F.3d 880, 883 (9th Cir. 2006). However, the ALJ "need
not discuss all evidence presented." Vincent ex rel.
Vincent v. Heckler, 739 F.2d 1393, 1394-95 (9th Cir.
1984) (citation omitted). Rather, the ALJ must explain only
why "significant probative evidence has been
rejected." Id. at 1395 (citation omitted).
first, the ALJ specifically considered Plaintiffs mental
health limitations of anxiety and depression, and discussed
how Plaintiff took medication for those symptoms for 15 years
and was able to work competitively through almost all of that
period. (AR at 16, 419); Warre v. Comm 'r Soc. Sec.
Admin., 439 F.3d 1001, 1006 (9th Cir. 2006) (impairments
that can be controlled are not disabling); Gregory v.
Bowen, 844 F.2d 664, 667 (9th Cir. 1988) (upholding
finding that claimant's back problems were not disabling
where that impairment had not prevented her from working).
Plaintiff stopped working for reasons unrelated to her mental
health. (AR at 16, 20); cf. Bruton v. Massanari, 268
F.3d 824, 828 (9th Cir. 2001) (allegation of disabling pain
discounted because claimant "was laid off, rather than
... injured"); see Kennerson v. Colvin, 2015 WL
3930167, at *3 (CD. Cal. June 25, 2015) (RFC determination
supported in part because claimant indicated she stopped
working after injuring her back during a fall at work, a
reason unrelated to her fibromyalgia). Notably, Plaintiff:
(1) told Dr. John D. Kauffman that she would have returned to
work had she not been laid off; and (2) told Dr. Jahan, and
testified at the administrative hearing, that she stopped
working because she fell and was terminated, not because of
mental health limitations. (AR at 20, 38, 366, 420, 520.)
the ALJ specifically discussed Dr. Jahan's mild
limitation findings earlier in the decision and ultimately
gave "great weight" to her overall assessment of
Plaintiffs mental health, which is supportive of a
non-disability determination. (AR at 16, 422); see, e.g.,
Atkinson v. Astrue, 389 F.App'x 804, 808 (10th Cir.
2010) (upholding RFC even though ALJ did not mention all
moderate mental health limitations found by doctor because
ALJ accepted doctor's ultimate opinion that claimant
could perform non-complex work); Harris v. Comm 'r
Soc. Sec. Admin., 605 F.App'x 612, 614 (9th Cir.
2015) (ALJ's interpretation of physician's opinion
comported with ALJ's ultimate determination that claimant
could perform less than a full range of sedentary work).
for all the above reasons, the ALJ properly assessed
Plaintiffs mental health limitations in formulating the RFC.
any error in assessing the RFC or posing hypothetical
questions to the ...