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Gandarilla v. Berryhill

United States District Court, C.D. California, Eastern Division

November 20, 2017

STEVEN GANDARILLA, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          FREDERICK F. MUMM United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff brings this action seeking to overturn the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration[1] denying his application for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income. Plaintiff and defendant consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Pursuant to the Case Management Order issued on August 15, 2016 and an extension granted by the Court, on May 25, 2017, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation (“JS”) detailing each party's arguments and authorities. The Court has reviewed the administrative record (the “AR”) and the Joint Stipulation. For the reasons stated below, the decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED.

         PRIOR PROCEEDINGS

         On December 28, 2012, plaintiff applied for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income, alleging an onset date of July 15, 2009. (AR 176-88.) Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. (AR 56-116.) Thereafter, plaintiff requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). (AR 138.) ALJ Dante M. Alegre held a hearing on December 3, 2014. (AR 36-55.) Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified at the hearing. (See id.) Furthermore, Gregory Jones, a vocational expert (“VE”), testified at the hearing. (AR 49-53.)

         On February 27, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision denying plaintiff benefits. (AR 14-35.) Based on his review of the evidence, the ALJ determined that plaintiff has the “following severe impairments: diabetes mellitus type II, peripheral neuropathy, degenerative joint disease of the right shoulder, mild lumbar osteoarthritis, minimal osteoarthritis of the left knee, obesity, major depressive disorder, and bipolar disorder.” (AR 20.) Further, the ALJ found that plaintiff possesses the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform “light work” except that plaintiff can:

lift 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, and can sit, stand, or walk six hours each out of an eight-hour workday. He can occasionally push and pull with the right upper extremity. He an [sic] occasionally climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. He can occasionally reach overhead with the right upper extremity. He can perform unskilled, nonpublic work.

(AR 23.)

         In making these determinations, the ALJ discredited plaintiff's claims about the limitations caused by his impairments. (AR 28.) The ALJ gave great weight to the state agency medical and psychiatric consultants and gave little weight to the opinions of plaintiff's treating physician Dr. Arthur Jimenez, M.D., and the GAF scores. (AR 27-28.) Based on plaintiff's RFC and the testimony of the VE, the ALJ determined that plaintiff is unable to perform any past relevant work, but there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that plaintiff can perform. (AR 28-29.) Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff has not been under a disability within the meaning of the Social Security Act from the alleged onset date of July 15, 2009 through the date of the decision. (AR 30.)

         On June 29, 2016, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review. (AR 1-9.) Thereafter, plaintiff filed this action.

         CONTENTIONS

         Plaintiff raises two issues in this action:

1. Whether the ALJ provided clear and convincing reasons to reject the opinion of the treating doctor.
2. Whether the ALJ failed to include all of the relevant mental limitations in the residual functional capacity.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the Administration's decisions to determine if: (1) the Administration's findings are supported by substantial evidence; and (2) the Administration used proper legal standards. Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996) (citations omitted). “Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance.” Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 720 (9th Cir. 1998) (citation omitted). 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.” Auckland v. Massanari, 257 F.3d 1033, 1035 (9th Cir. 2001) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         If the evidence in the record can reasonably support either affirming or reversing the ALJ's conclusion, the Court may not substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ. Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006) (citing Flaten v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 44 F.3d 1453, 1457 (9th Cir. 1995)). However, even if substantial evidence exists to support the Commissioner's decision, the decision must be reversed if the proper legal ...


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