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Delgado v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 7, 2017

NORMA IRENE DELGADO, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, [1] Defendant.

          ORDER DIRECTING ENTRY OF JUDGMENT IN FAVOR OF DEFENDANT NANCY BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY AND AGAINST PLAINTIFF NORMA IRENE DELGADO

          GARY S. AUSTIN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff, Norma Irene Delgado (“Plaintiff”), seeks judicial review of a final decision by the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner” or “Defendant”) denying her application for supplemental security income (“SSI”) pursuant to Title XVI of the Social Security Act. The matter is currently before the Court on the parties' briefs, which were submitted without oral argument to the Honorable Gary S. Austin, United States Magistrate Judge.[2] A review of the briefs and the administrative record reveals that the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence. Therefore, Plaintiff's appeal is DENIED.

         II. BACKGROUND AND PRIOR PROCEEDINGS[3]

         The parties agree that the Plaintiff properly exhausted her administrative remedies and that the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's appeal. Therefore, this appeal is a review of a decision issued by Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Regina L. Sleater on October 23, 2014, which is considered the Commissioner's final order. See, 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3). AR 20-31.

         A. Issue Presented

         The sole issue on appeal is whether the ALJ committed reversible error by failing to consider Listing Impairment 12.05C at step three of the disability determination process. Plaintiff argues that the ALJ was required to address this listing impairment because her IQ score is between 60 and 70, she suffers from other severe impairments not related to intellectual disability including depression and a personality disorder, and she suffers from deficits in adaptive functioning. She contends that the ALJ should have addressed this listing in the decision, and her failure to do so requires that the case be remanded so that the appropriate findings can be made. (Doc. 16, pgs. 4-13; Doc. Doc. 18, pgs. 2-9). The Commissioner argues that the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence because Plaintiff did not raise this issue at the hearing before the ALJ, Plaintiff does not meet all of the criteria for the listing, and the ALJ adequately addressed Plaintiff's mental limitations in the decision. (Doc. 17, pgs. 5-9).

         III. THE DISABILITY DETERMINATION PROCESS

         To qualify for benefits under the Social Security Act, a plaintiff must establish that he or she is unable to engage in substantial gainful activity due to a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than twelve months. 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). An individual shall be considered to have a disability only if:

. . . his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work, but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy, regardless of whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or whether he would be hired if he applied for work.

42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(B).

         To achieve uniformity in the decision-making process, the Commissioner has established a sequential five-step process for evaluating a claimant's alleged disability. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a). The ALJ proceeds through the steps and stops upon reaching a dispositive finding that the claimant is or is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920 (a)(4). The ALJ must consider objective medical evidence and opinion testimony. 20 C.F.R. § 416.913.

         Specifically, the ALJ is required to determine: (1) whether a claimant engaged in substantial gainful activity during the period of alleged disability; (2) whether the claimant had medically-determinable “severe” impairments; (3) whether these impairments meet or are medically equivalent to one of the listed impairments set forth in 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1; (4) whether the claimant retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform his past relevant work; and (5) whether the claimant had the ability to perform other jobs existing in significant numbers at the regional and national level. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4).

         Using the Social Security Administration's five-step sequential evaluation process, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not meet the disability standard. AR 17-31. In particular, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since July 21, 2012, the alleged amended disability onset date. AR 23. Further, the ALJ identified obesity, status post hernia surgery with small intestine resection of ten centimeters, low back pain, borderline intellectual function, and depression as severe ...


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