United States District Court, C.D. California
Honorable Jacqueline Chooljian UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE
November 10, 2016, Anthony Wayne Bryant
(“plaintiff”) filed a Complaint seeking review of
the Commissioner of Social Security's denial of
plaintiff's application for benefits. The parties have
consented to proceed before the undersigned United States
matter is before the Court on the parties' cross motions
for summary judgment, respectively (“Plaintiff's
Motion”) and (“Defendant's Motion”).
The Court has taken both motions under submission without
oral argument. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 78; L.R. 7-15;
November 21, 2016 Case Management Order ¶ 5.
on the record as a whole and the applicable law, the decision
of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED. The findings of the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) are supported by
substantial evidence and are free from material error.
BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION
October 9, 2013, plaintiff filed an application for
Disability Insurance Benefits alleging disability beginning
on December 12, 2012, due to degenerative joint disease,
degenerative disc disease, and testicular pain.
(Administrative Record (“AR”) 31, 139, 171-72).
The ALJ examined the medical record and heard testimony from
plaintiff (who was represented by counsel) and a vocational
expert on May 12, 2015. (AR 44-67).
30, 2015, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled
through the date of the decision. (AR 31-39). Specifically,
the ALJ found: (1) plaintiff suffered from the following
severe impairments: degenerative disc disease, arthritic
changes to the left acromioclavicular (AC) joint, status post
bilateral inguinal hernia repairs, and history of prostate
cancer (AR 33); (2) plaintiff's impairments, considered
singly or in combination, did not meet or medically equal a
listed impairment (AR 33-34); (3) plaintiff retained the
residual functional capacity to perform medium work (20
C.F.R. § 404.1567(c)) with additional
limitations (AR 34); (4) plaintiff could perform past
relevant work as a truck driver (AR 38-39); and (5)
plaintiff's statements regarding the intensity,
persistence, and limiting effects of subjective symptoms were
not entirely credible (AR 35).
September 16, 2016, the Appeals Council denied
plaintiff's application for review. (AR 1).
APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS
Sequential Evaluation Process
qualify for disability benefits, a claimant must show that
the claimant is unable “to engage in any substantial
gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable
physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result
in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a
continuous period of not less than 12 months.”
Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1110 (9th Cir.
2012) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A)) (internal
quotation marks omitted). The impairment must render the
claimant incapable of performing the work the claimant
previously performed and incapable of performing any other
substantial gainful employment that exists in the national
economy. Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th
Cir. 1999) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A)).
assessing whether a claimant is disabled, an ALJ is required
to use the following five-step sequential evaluation process:
(1) Is the claimant presently engaged in substantial gainful
activity? If so, the claimant is not disabled. If not,
proceed to step two.
(2) Is the claimant's alleged impairment sufficiently
severe to limit the claimant's ability to work? If not,
the claimant is not disabled. If so, proceed to step three.
(3) Does the claimant's impairment, or combination of
impairments, meet or equal an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R.
Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1? If so, the claimant is
disabled. If not, proceed to step four.
(4) Does the claimant possess the residual functional
capacity to perform claimant's past relevant work? If so,
the claimant is not disabled. If not, proceed to step five.
(5) Does the claimant's residual functional capacity,
when considered with the claimant's age, education, and
work experience, allow the claimant to adjust to other work
that exists in significant numbers in the national economy?
If so, the claimant is not disabled. If not, the claimant is
Stout v. Commissioner, Social Security
Administration, 454 F.3d 1050, 1052 (9th Cir. 2006)
(citations omitted); see also 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4) (2012) (explaining five-step sequential
claimant has the burden of proof at steps one through four,
and the Commissioner has the burden of proof at step five.
Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005)
Standard of Review
to 42 U.S.C. section 405(g), a court may set aside a denial
of benefits only if it is not supported by substantial
evidence or if it is based on legal error. Robbins v.
Social Security Administration, 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th
Cir. 2006) (citing Flaten v. Secretary of Health &
Human Services, 44 F.3d 1453, 1457 (9th Cir. 1995)).
evidence is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)
(citations and quotations omitted). It is more than a mere
scintilla but less than a preponderance. Robbins,
466 F.3d at 882 (citing Young v. Sullivan, 911 F.2d
180, 183 (9th Cir. 1990)). 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.'” Aukland v.
Massanari, 257 F.3d 1033, 1035 (9th Cir. 2001) (quoting
Penny v. Sullivan, 2 F.3d 953, 956 (9th Cir. 1993)).
an ALJ's decision need not discuss every piece of
evidence or be drafted with “ideal clarity, ” at
a minimum it must explain the ALJ's reasoning with
sufficient specificity and clarity to “allow for
meaningful review.” Brown-Hunter v. Colvin,
806 F.3d 487, 492 (9th Cir. 2015) (citations and internal
quotation marks omitted); Hiler v. Astrue, 687 F.3d
1208, 1212 (9th Cir. 2012) (citation and quotation marks
ALJ's decision to deny benefits must be upheld if the
evidence could reasonably support either affirming or
reversing the decision. Robbins, 466 F.3d at 882
(citing Flaten, 44 F.3d at 1457); see generally
Rounds v. Commissioner of Social Security
Administration, 807 F.3d 996, 1002 (9th Cir. 2015)
(“Overall, the standard of review is ‘highly
deferential.'”) (citation omitted). Even when an
ALJ's decision contains error, it must be affirmed if the
error was harmless. Treichler v. Commissioner of Social
Security Administration, 775 F.3d 1090, 1099 (9th Cir.