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Jannicelli v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, E.D. California

February 22, 2018

TINA MARIE JANNICELLI, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          AMENDED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

          CRAIG M. KELLISON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, who is proceeding with retained counsel, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security. Pending before the court are plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 14) and defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment (Doc. 21).

         The matter is before the undersigned following the District Judge's September 29, 2017, order. In findings and recommendations issued on September 1, 2017, the court concluded that summary judgment in favor of plaintiff was appropriate and that the case should be remanded to the agency for further proceedings. Specifically, the court found that: (1) the Administrative Law Judge failed to provide reasons for rejecting Dr. Orman's opinion that are supported by substantial evidence; (2) the Administrative Law Judge's assessment of plaintiff's migraine headaches was supported by substantial evidence and proper legal analysis; and (3) the Administrative Law Judge's assessment of plaintiff's credibility was supported by substantial evidence and proper legal analysis. No party filed objections and the findings and recommendations were submitted to the District Judge for review. The District Judge concluded that she was unable “to determine if the proposed determination is correct as a matter of law.” The District Judge did not specify which “determination” - regarding evaluation of Dr. Orman's opinion, evaluation of plaintiff's migraines, or assessment of plaintiff's credibility - she was unable to resolve.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff applied for social security benefits on July 13, 2008. In the application, plaintiff claims that disability began on May 15, 2007. Plaintiff's claim was initially denied. Following denial of reconsideration, plaintiff requested an administrative hearing, which was held on April 21, 2010, before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) William C. Thompson, Jr. In a July 22, 2010, decision, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff is not disabled. After the Appeals Council declined review, plaintiff appealed to this court. See Jannicelli v. Astrue, No. 2:12-CV-1678-CKD. The court reversed and remanded for further consideration of the opinions of plaintiff's treating physician, Dr. Orman.

         On remand, a second hearing was held before ALJ G. Ross Wheatley on July 15, 2014. In an August 8, 2014, decision, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff is not disabled based on the following relevant findings:

1. The claimant has the following severe impairment(s): fibromyalgia; migraine headaches; left knee degenerative joint disease, status post surgeries; depression; and anxiety;
2. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals an impairment listed in the regulations;
3. The claimant has the following residual functional capacity: the claimant can perform light work; she can lift/carry up to 20 pounds occasionally and up to 10 pounds frequently she can sit for six hours and stand/walk for up to three hours; she can occasionally bend, stoop, squat, and kneel; she cannot crawl or climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; she cannot work around unprotected heights and hazardous machinery; she can occasionally climb ramps and stairs; she has no limitation to reaching or gross manipulation; she is limited to simple work; and
4. Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, residual functional capacity, and vocational expert testimony, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform.

         After the Appeals Council declined further review on October 6, 2015, this second appeal followed.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The court reviews the Commissioner's final decision to determine whether it is: (1) based on proper legal standards; and (2) supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. See Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1097 (9th Cir. 1999). “Substantial evidence” is more than a mere scintilla, but less than a preponderance. See Saelee v. Chater, 94 F.3d 520, 521 (9th Cir. 1996). It is “. . . such evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 402 (1971). The record as a whole, including both the evidence that supports and detracts from the Commissioner's conclusion, must be considered and weighed. See Howard v. Heckler, 782 F.2d 1484, 1487 (9th Cir. 1986); Jones v. Heckler, 760 F.2d 993, 995 (9th Cir. 1985). The court may not affirm the Commissioner's decision simply by isolating a specific quantum of supporting evidence. See Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989). If substantial evidence supports the administrative findings, or if there is conflicting evidence supporting a particular finding, the finding of the Commissioner is conclusive. See Sprague v. Bowen, 812 F.2d 1226, 1229-30 (9th Cir. 1987). Therefore, where the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, one of which supports the Commissioner's decision, the decision must be affirmed, see Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002), and may be set aside only if an improper legal standard was applied in weighing the evidence, see Burkhart v. Bowen, 856 F.2d 1335, 1338 (9th Cir. 1988).

         III. ...


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