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Miller v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 26, 2017

GLORIA MILLER, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER

          CAROLYN K. DELANEY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying an application for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (“Act”). For the reasons discussed below, the court will deny plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and grant the Commissioner's cross-motion for summary judgment.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, born April 1, 1966, applied on June 22, 2012 for SSI, alleging disability beginning in November 2010. Administrative Transcript (“AT”) 198-206. Plaintiff alleged she was unable to work due to asthma, depression, anxiety, left ankle injury, insomnia, and muscle spasms. (AT 199.) In a decision dated November 21, 2014, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled.[1] (AT 20-36.) The ALJ made the following findings (citations to 20 C.F.R. omitted):

1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since June 22, 2012, the application date.
2. The claimant has the following severe impairments: cervical degenerative disc disease; lumbar degenerative disc disease; left ankle open reduction-internal fixation surgery due to left bimalleolar fracture and subsequent hardware removal; asthma; and depression.
3. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
4. After careful consideration of the entire record, I find that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CRF 416.967(b) except: she needs to alternate between sitting and standing two times per hour for stretch breaks at the workstation briefly; she may occasionally use the left lower extremity for foot controls; she can frequently climb ramps or stairs, or crouch; she cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; she should avoid concentrated exposure to fumes, odors, and dusts; she can perform simple, repetitive tasks; she may occasionally perform complex or technical (semiskilled) tasks; she may have frequent interaction with coworkers and supervisors; and she may have occasional interaction with the public.
5. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work.
6. The claimant was born on April 1, 1966 and was 46 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49 on the date the application was filed.
7. The claimant has a limited education and is able to communicate in English.
8. Transferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability because using the Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding that the claimant is “not disabled, ” whether or not the claimant has transferable job skills.
9. Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform.
10. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, since June 22, 2012, the date the application was filed.

AT 22-36.

         ISSUES PRESENTED

         Plaintiff argues that the ALJ committed the following errors in finding plaintiff not disabled: (1) The ALJ's residual function capacity finding is flawed, as the ALJ had insufficient reasons to reject the medical opinions of physician Dr. Haddadan and Dr. Lim, whose opinions should be credited; and (2) the ALJ gave legally inadequate reasons for rejecting plaintiff's testimony.

         LEGAL STANDARDS

         The 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) (citations 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).

         The record as a whole must be considered, Howard v. Heckler, 782 F.2d 1484, 1487 (9th Cir. 1986), and both the evidence that supports and the evidence that detracts from the ALJ's conclusion weighed. See Jones v. Heckler, 760 F.2d 993, 995 (9th Cir. 1985). The court may not affirm the ALJ's decision simply by isolating a specific quantum of supporting evidence. Id.; see also Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989). If substantial evidence supports the administrative findings, or if there is conflicting evidence supporting a finding of either disability or nondisability, the finding of the ALJ is conclusive, see Sprague v. Bowen, 812 F.2d 1226, ...


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