United States District Court, C.D. California
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER AFFIRMING
ROSENBLUTH, U.S. Magistrate Judge
seeks review of the Commissioner's final decision denying
his application for Social Security disability insurance
benefits (“DIB”). The parties consented to the
jurisdiction of the undersigned U.S. Magistrate Judge under
28 U.S.C. § 636(c). The matter is before the Court on
the parties' Joint Stipulation, filed May 2, 2017, which
the Court has taken under submission without oral argument.
For the reasons stated below, the Commissioner's decision
was born in 1951. (Administrative Record (“AR”)
122.) He obtained a GED (AR 141) and worked as a real estate
agent (AR 33).
March 6, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB,
alleging that he had been unable to work since March 1, 2007,
because of post-traumatic-stress disorder, bipolar disorder,
depression, hearing loss, arthritis, sleep apnea,
hypothyroid, and degenerative disc disease. (AR 60, 122-29.)
After his application was denied (AR 60-69), he requested a
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (AR 75-76). A
hearing was held on December 3, 2015, at which Plaintiff, who
was represented by counsel, testified, as did a vocational
expert. (AR 29-59.) In a written decision issued March 9,
2016, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled at any
time between October 1, 2007, his date first insured, and
December 31, 2008, his date last insured. (AR 11-28.)
Plaintiff requested review from the Appeals Council, and on
April 29, 2016, it denied review. (AR 1-4.) This action
STANDARD OF REVIEW
42 U.S.C. § 405(g), a district court may review the
Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. The ALJ's
findings and decision should be upheld if they are free of
legal error and supported by substantial evidence based on
the record as a whole. See id.; Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Parra v.
Astrue, 481 F.3d 742, 746 (9th Cir. 2007). Substantial
evidence means such evidence as a reasonable person might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.
Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401; Lingenfelter v.
Astrue, 504 F.3d 1028, 1035 (9th Cir. 2007). It is more
than a scintilla but less than a preponderance.
Lingenfelter, 504 F.3d at 1035 (citing Robbins
v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006)).
To determine whether substantial evidence supports a finding,
the reviewing court “must review the administrative
record as a whole, weighing both the evidence that supports
and the evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's
conclusion.” Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715,
720 (9th Cir. 1996). “If the evidence can reasonably
support either affirming or reversing, ” the reviewing
court “may not substitute its judgment” for the
Commissioner's. Id. at 720-21.
THE EVALUATION OF DISABILITY
are “disabled” for purposes of receiving Social
Security benefits if they are unable to engage in any
substantial gainful activity owing to a physical or mental
impairment that is expected to result in death or has lasted,
or is expected to last, for a continuous period of at least
12 months. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A); Drouin v.
Sullivan, 966 F.2d 1255, 1257 (9th Cir. 1992).
The Five-Step Evaluation Process
follows a five-step sequential evaluation process to assess
whether a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4); Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 828
n.5 (9th Cir. 1996) (as amended). In the first step, the
Commissioner must determine whether the claimant is currently
engaged in substantial gainful activity; if so, the claimant
is not disabled and the claim must be denied. §
claimant is not engaged in substantial gainful activity, the
second step requires the Commissioner to determine whether
the claimant has a “severe” impairment or
combination of impairments significantly limiting his ability
to do basic work activities; if not, the claimant is not
disabled and his claim must be denied. §
claimant has a “severe” impairment or combination
of impairments, the third step requires the Commissioner to
determine whether the impairment or combination of
impairments meets or equals an impairment in the Listing of
Impairments set forth at 20 C.F.R. part 404, subpart P,
appendix 1; if so, disability is conclusively presumed.
claimant's impairment or combination of impairments does
not meet or equal an impairment in the Listing, the fourth
step requires the Commissioner to determine whether the
claimant has sufficient residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform his past work; if so, he is not
disabled and the claim must be denied. §
404.1520(a)(4)(iv). The claimant has the burden of proving he
is unable to perform past ...