United States District Court, E.D. California
KENDALL J. NEWMAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Patricia Von Pickering seeks judicial review of a final
decision by the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying plaintiff's
application for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) under Titles II and XVI, respectively, of
the Social Security Act (“Act”). In her motion for
summary judgment, plaintiff principally contends that the
Commissioner erred by finding that plaintiff was not disabled
from December 31, 2007, through July 27, 2015. (ECF No. 14.)
The Commissioner opposed plaintiff's motion and filed a
cross-motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 15.) No optional
reply brief was filed.
carefully considering the record and the parties'
briefing, the court DENIES plaintiff's motion for summary
judgment, GRANTS the Commissioner's cross-motion for
summary judgment, and AFFIRMS the Commissioner's final
was born on September 7, 1956; has a high school education
and training as a medical assistant; can communicate in
English; and previously worked as a medical assistant.
(Administrative Transcript (“AT”) 43-44,
70-71.) On June 5, 2012, plaintiff applied for DIB
and SSI, alleging that she became disabled on December 31,
2007, due to a seizure disorder, vision loss, memory loss,
and general confusion. (AT 23, 70-71, 166, 171, 194.) After
plaintiff's application was denied initially and on
reconsideration, an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”) conducted a hearing on April 30, 2015, at
which plaintiff, represented by counsel, and a vocational
expert (“VE”) testified. (AT 23, 39-55.) On July
27, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision finding that plaintiff
had not been under a disability, as defined in the Act, from
December 31, 2007, plaintiff's alleged disability onset
date, through the date of the ALJ's decision. (AT 23-32.)
That decision became the final decision of the Commissioner
when the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for
review on October 12, 2016. (AT 1-3.) Plaintiff subsequently
filed this action on December 3, 2016, to obtain judicial
review of the Commissioner's final decision. (ECF No. 1.)
appeal, plaintiff raises the sole issue of whether the case
should be remanded for consideration of new evidence
presented to the Appeals Council.
court reviews the Commissioner's decision to determine
whether (1) it is based on proper legal standards pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 405(g), and (2) substantial evidence in the
record as a whole supports it. Tackett v. Apfel, 180
F.3d 1094, 1097 (9th Cir. 1999). Substantial evidence is more
than a mere scintilla, but less than a preponderance.
Connett v. Barnhart, 340 F.3d 871, 873 (9th Cir.
2003) (citation omitted). It means “such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d
625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007), quoting Burch v. Barnhart,
400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005). “The ALJ is
responsible for determining credibility, resolving conflicts
in medical testimony, and resolving ambiguities.”
Edlund v. Massanari, 253 F.3d 1152, 1156 (9th Cir.
2001) (citation omitted). “The court will uphold the
ALJ's conclusion when the evidence is susceptible to more
than one rational interpretation.” Tommasetti v.
Astrue, 533 F.3d 1035, 1038 (9th Cir. 2008).
of the ALJ's Findings
evaluated plaintiff's entitlement to DIB and SSI pursuant
to the Commissioner's standard five-step analytical
framework. As an initial matter, the ALJ found that
plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act for
purposes of DIB through December 31, 2012. (AT 25.) At the
first step, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff had not engaged
in substantial gainful activity since December 31, 2007,
plaintiff's alleged disability onset date. (Id.)
At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff had the following
severe impairments: seizure disorder, degenerative disc
disease of the lumbar spine, and cataracts. (Id.)
However, at step three, the ALJ determined that plaintiff did
not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met
or medically equaled the severity of an impairment listed in
20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (AT 26.)
proceeding to step four, the ALJ assessed plaintiff's
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) as follows:
After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20
CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b), except she is able to
lift/carry up to 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds
frequently and is restricted from climbing ladders, ropes and
scaffolds and ...