United States District Court, C.D. California, Western Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
D. EARLY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Cassandra Lynn Rahn (“Plaintiff”) filed a
complaint on March 30, 2017, seeking review of the denial of
her application for Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) benefits by the Commissioner of Social
Security (“Commissioner” or
“Defendant”). Pursuant to consents of the
parties, the case has been assigned to the undersigned
Magistrate Judge for all purposes. Consistent with the Order
Re: Procedures in Social Security Appeal, on February 9,
2018, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation addressing their
respective positions. Dkt. No. 21 (“Jt. Stip.”).
The matter is now ready for decision.
November 4, 2013, Plaintiff applied for SSI, alleging
disability beginning December 1, 2009. Administrative Record
(“AR”) 246-54. After her application was denied
initially (AR 142) and on reconsideration (AR 207-12),
Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing, which was held
on July 6, 2016. AR 77-119. Plaintiff appeared and testified
at the hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”), as a vocational expert
September 16, 2016, the ALJ issued a written decision finding
Plaintiff was not disabled. AR 29-45. The ALJ determined that
Plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments:
“chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; degenerative
disc disease; mild degenerative joint disease, bilateral
knees; affective disorder; anxiety disorder.”
Id. The ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light
work, with the following limitations: “simple
instructions; some routine tasks; no constant high production
pace; occasional work with or in proximity to others; off
task up to 10% of the time, but not constantly; occasionally
work with public, coworkers, and supervisors; unlimited
balancing; occasional all other posturals; occasional
reaching overhead bilaterally; avoid concentrated exposure to
fumes, odors, dusts, gases.” AR 36. The ALJ further
found that Plaintiff was incapable of performing past
relevant work as a rubber goods inspector. AR 38. The ALJ
determined Plaintiff was capable of performing the following
jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national
economy: marker, retail (Dictionary of Occupational Titles
(“DOT”) 209.587-034), housekeeper/cleaner (DOT
323.687-014), and advertiser materials distributor (DOT
230.687-010) and concluded Plaintiff was not disabled. AR 39.
filed a request with the Appeals Council for review of the
ALJ's decision. AR 26-27. On January 31, 2017, the
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review,
making the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final
decision. AR 1-6. This action followed.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the
Commissioner's decision denying benefits to determine
whether it is free from legal error and supported by
substantial evidence in the record as a whole. Orn v.
Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007).
“Substantial evidence” is “more than a mere
scintilla but less than a preponderance; it is such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Gutierrez v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 740 F.3d 519, 522-23 (9th Cir. 2014)
(citations and internal punctuation omitted). The standard of
review of a decision by an ALJ is “highly
deferential.” Rounds v. Comm'r Soc. Sec.
Admin., 807 F.3d 996, 1002 (9th Cir. 2015) (citation
omitted). Section 405(g) permits a court to enter a judgment
affirming, modifying, or reversing and remanding the
Commissioner's decision. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
ALJ is responsible for determining credibility, resolving
conflicts in medical testimony, and for resolving
ambiguities.” Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d
1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 1995). Although this Court cannot
substitute its discretion for the Commissioner's, the
Court nonetheless must review the record as a whole,
“weighing both the evidence that supports and the
evidence that detracts from the [Commissioner's]
conclusion.” Lingenfelter v. Astrue, 504 F.3d
1028, 1035 (9th Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks and
citation omitted). “Even when the evidence is
susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, we must
uphold the ALJ's findings if they are supported by
inferences reasonably drawn from the record.”
Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1110 (9th Cir.
2012); see also Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679
(9th Cir. 2005). However, the Court may only review the
reasons provided by the ALJ in the disability determination,
and may not affirm the ALJ on a ground upon which the ALJ did
not rely. Garrison v. Colvin, 759 F.3d 995, 1010
(9th Cir. 2014) (citation omitted).
even if an ALJ erred, a reviewing court will still uphold the
decision if the error was inconsequential to the ultimate
non-disability determination, or where, despite the error,
the ALJ's path “may reasonably be discerned,
” even if the ALJ explained the decision “with
less than ideal clarity.” Brown-Hunter v.
Colvin, 806 F.3d 487, 492 (9th Cir. 2015) (citations,
internal punctuation omitted).
parties present one issue: “Whether an unexplained
conflict exists between the [VE's] testimony and the
information in the DOT which would warrant reversal.”
Jt. Stip. at 4. Plaintiff argues that the testimony offered
by the VE upon which the ALJ relied at step five of the
disability determination, was in conflict with the
occupational requirements in the DOT. Id. at 6-10.
The Commissioner responds that the ALJ fully considered
Plaintiff's impairments in assessing her ability ...