United States District Court, E.D. California
KENDALL J. NEWMAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Kevin Jensen seeks judicial review of a final decision by the
Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”)
denying plaintiff's application for Disability Insurance
Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) under Titles II and XVI, respectively, of
the Social Security Act (“Act”). In his motion for
summary judgment, plaintiff principally contends that the
Commissioner erred by finding that plaintiff was not disabled
from February 15, 2009, plaintiff's alleged disability
onset date, through October 24, 2014, the date of the
administrative law judge's (“ALJ”) decision.
(ECF No. 19.) The Commissioner opposed plaintiff's motion
and filed a cross-motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 20.)
No optional reply brief was filed.
carefully considering the record and the parties'
briefing, the court DENIES plaintiff's motion for summary
judgment, GRANTS the Commissioner's cross-motion for
summary judgment, and AFFIRMS the Commissioner's final
was born on May 3, 1966; completed 14 years of education and
obtained an Associate's Degree in Criminal Justice; can
communicate in English; and previously worked as an
automotive technician. (Administrative Transcript
(“AT”) 35, 50-51.) On July 30, 2012, plaintiff
applied for DIB, alleging that his disability began on
February 15, 2009. Additionally, plaintiff filed for SSI on
August 21, 2013, again alleging disability beginning on
February 15, 2009. Plaintiff claimed that he was disabled due
to degenerative disc disease, carpal tunnel, depression,
trouble sleeping, asthma, breathing problems, hypertension,
and arthritis. (AT 25, 27, 209.) After plaintiff's
application was denied initially and on reconsideration, an
ALJ conducted a hearing on May 6, 2014. (AT 44-72.) The ALJ
subsequently issued a decision dated October 24, 2014,
determining that plaintiff had not been under a disability,
as defined in the Act, from February 15, 2009,
plaintiff's alleged disability onset date, through the
date of the ALJ's decision. (AT 22-43.) The ALJ's
decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when
the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review
on April 20, 2016. (AT 1-7.) Plaintiff subsequently filed
this action on June 23, 2016, to obtain judicial review of
the Commissioner's final decision. (ECF No. 1.)
appeal, plaintiff raises the following issues: (1) whether
the ALJ failed to properly account for plaintiff's mental
impairments; and (2) whether the ALJ improperly rejected the
opinion of plaintiff's treating physician, Dr.
court reviews the Commissioner's decision to determine
whether (1) it is based on proper legal standards pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 405(g), and (2) substantial evidence in the
record as a whole supports it. Tackett v. Apfel, 180
F.3d 1094, 1097 (9th Cir. 1999). Substantial evidence is more
than a mere scintilla, but less than a preponderance.
Connett v. Barnhart, 340 F.3d 871, 873 (9th Cir.
2003) (citation omitted). It means “such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d
625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007), quoting Burch v. Barnhart,
400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005). “The ALJ is
responsible for determining credibility, resolving conflicts
in medical testimony, and resolving ambiguities.”
Edlund v. Massanari, 253 F.3d 1152, 1156 (9th Cir.
2001) (citation omitted). “The court will uphold the
ALJ's conclusion when the evidence is susceptible to more
than one rational interpretation.” Tommasetti v.
Astrue, 533 F.3d 1035, 1038 (9th Cir. 2008).
of the ALJ's Findings
evaluated plaintiff's entitlement to DIB and SSI pursuant
to the Commissioner's standard five-step analytical
framework. As an initial matter, the ALJ determined
that plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act
for purposes of DIB through June 30, 2014. (AT 27.) At the
first step, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff had not engaged
in substantial gainful activity since February 15, 2009, his
alleged disability onset date. (Id.) At step two,
the ALJ found that plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: mild degenerative disc disease of the thoracic
spine, moderate carpal tunnel syndrome of the left wrist,
mild carpal tunnel syndrome of the right wrist, mild
degenerative joint disease of the right and left shoulders,
and obesity. (Id.) However, at step three, the ALJ
determined that plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the
severity of an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1. (AT 30.)
proceeding to step four, the ALJ assessed plaintiff's
RFC, finding that plaintiff could perform light work as
defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b) and §
416.967(b), except that plaintiff could:
lift and carry 25 pounds occasionally, 20 pounds frequently,
and sit, stand and walk for 6 hours each in an 8-hour day.
The claimant can frequently climb, but occasionally climb
ladders, ropes, and scaffolds. The claimant can frequently
balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. The claimant can
frequently finger and handle and frequently perform overhead
reaching with both arms.
(Id.) At step four, the ALJ determined that
plaintiff was unable to perform any past relevant work. (AT
34.) However, at step five the ALJ found that, in light of
plaintiff's age, education, work experience, RFC, and the
vocational expert's (“VE”) testimony, there
were jobs that existed in ...