United States District Court, C.D. California
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
PYM United States Magistrate Judge
February 12, 2016, plaintiff Luis Rafael Jiminez filed a
complaint against defendant, the Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration (“Commissioner”),
seeking a review of a denial of a period of disability,
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”), and
supplemental security income (“SSI”). Both
plaintiff and defendant have consented to proceed for all
purposes before the assigned Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636(c). The court deems the matter suitable for
adjudication without oral argument.
presents three issues for decision: (1) whether the
administrative law judge (“ALJ”) properly
considered plaintiff's credibility; (2) whether the ALJ
properly considered the opinions of two lay witnesses; and
(3) whether the ALJ's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) determination was supported by
substantial evidence. Plaintiff's Memorandum in Support
of the Complaint (“P. Mem.”) at 2; Memorandum in
Support of Defendant's Answer (“D. Mem.”) at
carefully studied the parties' written submissions, the
Administrative Record (“AR”), and the decision of
the ALJ, the court concludes that, as detailed herein, the
ALJ did not err. Consequently, the court affirms the decision
of the Commissioner denying benefits.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
was thirty years old on his alleged disability onset date and
completed the eleventh grade. AR at 51, 84. Plaintiff has no
past relevant work. See id. at 35.
March 21 and 23, 2012, plaintiff filed applications for a
period of disability, DIB, and SSI due to severe chronic
lower back pain, radiculopathy, depression, anxiety with
panic attacks and social isolation, and degeneration of the
lumbar spine. See id. at 84, 95. The
applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration,
after which he filed a request for a hearing. See
id. at 126-30, 132-36.
March 13, 2014, plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared
and testified at a hearing before the ALJ. Id. at
42-81. The ALJ also heard testimony from Jane Hale, a
vocational expert. Id. at 71-76. On March 28, 2014,
the ALJ denied plaintiff's claims for benefits.
Id. at 22-37.
the well-known five-step sequential evaluation process, the
ALJ found, at step one, that plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since December 30, 2009, the
alleged onset date. Id. at 25.
two, the ALJ found plaintiff suffered from the following
severe impairments: minimal dextroconvex scoliosis of the
lumbar spine and lumbago. Id.
three, the ALJ found plaintiff's impairments, whether
individually or in combination, did not meet or medically
equal one of the listed impairments set forth in 20 C.F.R.
part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (the “Listings”).
Id. at 29-30.
then assessed plaintiff's RFC,  and determined he had the
RFC to perform “essentially the full range of light
work, ” with the limitations that plaintiff could: lift
and/or carry twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds
frequently; no more than occasionally stoop, crouch, or
crawl; and frequently climb, balance, and kneel. Id.
found, at step four, that plaintiff had no past relevant
work. Id. at 35.
five, the ALJ determined that, based upon plaintiff's
age, education, work experience, and RFC, plaintiff could
perform jobs “that exist in significant numbers in the
national economy, ” including housekeeping cleaner,
small products assembler, and marker. Id. at 36.
Consequently, the ALJ concluded plaintiff did not suffer from
a disability as defined by the Social Security Act
(“SSA”). Id. at 37.
filed a timely request for review of the ALJ's decision,
which was denied by the Appeals Council. Id. at 1-3.
The ALJ's decision stands as the final decision of the
STANDARD OF REVIEW
court is empowered to review decisions by the Commissioner to
deny benefits. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The findings and
decision of the Social Security Administration must be upheld
if they are free of legal error and supported by substantial
evidence. Mayes v. Massanari, 276 F.3d 453, 458-59
(9th Cir. 2001) (as amended). But if the court determines
that the ALJ's findings are based on legal error or are
not supported by substantial evidence in the record, the
court may reject the findings and set aside the decision to
deny benefits. Aukland v. Massanari, 257 F.3d 1033,
1035 (9th Cir. 2001); Tonapetyan v. Halter, 242 F.3d
1144, 1147 (9th Cir. 2001).
evidence is more than a mere scintilla, but less than a
preponderance.” Aukland, 257 F.3d at 1035.
Substantial evidence is such “relevant evidence which a
reasonable person might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715,
720 (9th Cir. 1998); Mayes, 276 F.3d at 459. To
determine whether substantial evidence supports the ALJ's
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 ALJ's
conclusion.” Mayes, 276 F.3d at 459. The
ALJ's decision “‘cannot be affirmed simply by
isolating a specific quantum of supporting
evidence.'” Aukland, 257 F.3d at 1035
(quoting Sousa v. Callahan, 143 F.3d 1240, 1243 (9th
Cir. 1998)). If the evidence can reasonably support either
affirming or reversing the ALJ's decision, the reviewing
court “‘may not substitute its judgment for that
of the ALJ.'” Id. (quoting Matney v.
Sullivan, 981 F.2d 1016, 1018 (9th Cir. 1992)).