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Dalaney v. Berryhill

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

February 26, 2018

LANISHA DALANEY, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [1]Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF REMAND

          ALKA SAGAR, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Pursuant to Sentence 4 of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that this matter be remanded for further administrative action consistent with this Opinion.

         PROCEEDINGS

         On January 12, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Complaint seeking review of the denial of her applications for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income. (Docket Entry No. 1). The parties have consented to proceed before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge. (Docket Entry Nos. 11-12). On January 3, 2017, Defendant filed an Answer along with the Administrative Record (“AR”). (Docket Entry Nos. 17-18). The parties filed a Joint Stipulation (“Joint Stip.”) on January 18, 2018, setting forth their respective positions regarding Plaintiff's claims. (Docket Entry No. 36).

         The Court has taken this matter under submission without oral argument. See C.D. Cal. L.R. 7-15.

         BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

         On May 31, 2013, Plaintiff, formerly employed in dental offices (see AR 259-60, 437-39), filed applications for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income, both alleging a disability since June 27, 2012. (See AR 368-77). The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's applications initially and on reconsideration. (AR 297, 308). On November 10, 2014, the Administrative Law Judge [“ALJ”], James Moser, heard testimony from Plaintiff (represented by counsel), medical expert Harvey Alpern, and vocational expert Sandra Trost. (See AR 257-75).

         On December 5, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's applications. (See AR 229-35). Applying the five-step sequential process, the ALJ found at step one that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since June 27, 2012, the alleged onset date. (AR 231). At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had a severe impairment -- seizure disorder (AR 231).[2] At step three, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meet or medically equal the severity of any of the listings enumerated in the regulations. (AR 232-33). A The ALJ then assessed Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (“RFC”)[3] and concluded that she could perform a narrowed range of light work[4] with the following limitations: can lift and/or carry up to 10 pounds frequently and up to 20 pounds occasionally; can stand and/or walk for 6 hours out of an 8-hour workday; can sit for 6 hours out of 8hour workday; can occasionally do postural activities; cannot climb ropes, ladders, or scaffolds; cannot work at unprotected heights or near dangerous equipment; and must avoid concentrated exposure to pulmonary irritants. (AR 233-35).

         At step four, the ALJ, relying on the vocational expert's hearing testimony, found that Plaintiff was capable of performing her past relevant work as a medical receptionist as that job was generally performed. (AR 235). The ALJ therefore concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. (AR 235).

         The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on May 20, 2016. (See AR 3-8, 205-06). Plaintiff now seeks judicial review of the ALJ's decision which stands as the final decision of the Commissioner. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c).

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         This Court reviews the Administration's decision to determine if it is free of legal error and supported by substantial evidence. See Brewes v. Comm'r, 682 F.3d 1157, 1161 (9th Cir. 2012). “Substantial evidence” is more than a mere scintilla, but less than a preponderance. Garrison v. Colvin, 759 F.3d 995, 1009 (9th Cir. 2014). 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.” Aukland v. Massanari, 257 F.3d 1033, 1035 (9th Cir. 2001) (internal quotation omitted). As a result, “[i]f the evidence can support either affirming or reversing the ALJ's conclusion, [a court] may not substitute [its] judgment for that of the ALJ.” Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006).

         PLAINTIFF'S CONTENTIONS

         Plaintiff alleges that the ALJ erred in finding that: (1) Plaintiff did not meet Listed Impairment 11.02(A); (2) Plaintiff could perform her past relevant work as generally performed; (3) Plaintiff could perform her past relevant work, based on her seizures; and (4) Plaintiff could perform her past relevant work, based on her ...


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