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Olivas v. Berryhill

United States District Court, C.D. California

June 21, 2017

DAVID ERNEST OLIVAS, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          FREDERICK F. MUMM United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff brings this action seeking to overturn the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration[1] denying his application for Supplemental Security Income benefits. Plaintiff and defendant consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Pursuant to the Case Management Order filed on July 6, 2016, on February 2, 2017, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation (“JS”) detailing each party's arguments and authorities. The Court has reviewed the administrative record (the “AR”) and the Joint Stipulation. For the reasons stated below, the decision of the Commissioner is affirmed.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On April 18, 2013, plaintiff applied for Supplemental Security Income benefits. (AR 141-50.) His application was denied initially (AR 57) and on reconsideration (AR 68). Thereafter, plaintiff requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). (AR 5-6.) On September 25, 2014, ALJ John Wojciechowski held a hearing. (AR 20-45.) Plaintiff appeared at the hearing with counsel. (See id.)

         On November 21, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision denying plaintiff benefits. (AR 7-19.) In the decision, the ALJ found that plaintiff's impairments neither meet nor equal any listing found in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, subpart P, app'x 1. (AR 12.) Moreover, the ALJ determined that plaintiff possesses the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform “light work” with the following limitations:

[T]he claimant can lift and/or carry up to 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; can sit for six hours and stand/walk for six hours in an eight-hour workday; can occasionally climb, stoop, kneel, crawl and crouch; can never use ladders, ropes or scaffolds; and can frequently balance. The claimant is further limited to frequent bilateral reaching and handling and frequent overhead reaching with the left (non-dominant) upper extremity. The claimant should avoid concentrated exposure in the workplace to extreme heat, cold, vibration, and industrial hazards

         (AR 13.) In determining plaintiff's RFC, the ALJ rejected the opinions of Dr. Khai Do, plaintiff's treating physician.[2] (AR 14.) Based on his RFC determination and the testimony of a vocational expert, the ALJ found that plaintiff is capable of performing work existing in the national economy and is therefore not disabled. (AR 15-16.)

         On May 6, 2016, the Appeals Council denied review. (AR 1-3.) Plaintiff filed the instant complaint on May 27, 2016. (Dkt. 1.)

         CONTENTIONS

         Plaintiff raises a single contention in this action:

1. Whether the ALJ properly considered the opinions of plaintiff's treating physician, Dr. Do.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the Administration's decisions to determine if: (1) the Administration's findings are supported by substantial evidence; and (2) the Administration used proper legal standards. Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996) (citations omitted). “Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance.” Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 720 (9th Cir. 1998) (citation omitted). To determine whether substantial evidence supports a finding, “a court must consider the record as a whole, weighing both evidence that supports and evidence that detracts from the [Commissioner's] conclusion.” Auckland v. Massanari, 257 F.3d 1033, 1035 (9th Cir. 2001) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         If the evidence in the record can reasonably support either affirming or reversing the ALJ's conclusion, the Court may not substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ. Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006) (citing Flaten v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 44 F.3d 1453, 1457 (9th Cir. 1995)). However, even if substantial evidence exists to support the Commissioner's decision, the decision must be reversed if the proper legal ...


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