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Lee v. Berryhill

United States District Court, C.D. California

February 27, 2018

ANTHONY LEE Plaintiff
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          GAIL J. STANDISH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff Anthony Lee (“Plaintiff”) filed a complaint seeking review of Defendant Commissioner of Social Security's (“Commissioner”) denial of his application for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). The parties filed consents to proceed before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge [Dkts. 11, 13] and briefs addressing disputed issues in the case [Dkt. 17 (“Pltf.'s Br.”) and Dkt. 19 (“Def.'s Br.”), Dkt. 20 (“Pltf.'s Reply).] The Court has taken the parties' briefing under submission without oral argument. For the reasons set forth below, the Court affirms the decision of the ALJ and orders judgment entered accordingly.

         II. ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION UNDER REVIEW

         On January 31, 2014, Plaintiff filed an application for SSI, alleging that he became disabled as of December 1, 2012. [Dkt. 16, Administrative Record (“AR”) 23, 169-178.] The Commissioner denied his initial claim for benefits on July 2, 2014 and upon reconsideration on October 13, 2014. [AR 75-95.] On January 26, 2016, a hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Richard T. Breen. [AR 36-73.] On May 4, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's request for benefits. [AR 23-35.] Plaintiff requested review from the Appeals Council, which denied review on March 1, 2017. [AR 1-7.]

         Applying the five-step sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(b)-(g)(1). At step one, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 31, 2014, the application date. [AR 25.] At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: status post left foot ganglion cyst removal; bilateral knee osteoarthritis; and obesity. [Id. (citing 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(c)).] Next, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments. [AR 26 (citing 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1; 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(d), 416.925, and 416.926).]

         The ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following residual functional capacity (RFC):

[L]ight work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b) except he can only occasionally climb, kneel, crouch and/or crawl.

[AR 26-27.] Applying this RFC, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was unable to perform past relevant work, but determined that based on his age (51 years old at the time of application), limited education, and ability to communicate in English, he could perform representative occupations such as cashier II (Dictionary of Occupational Titles (“DOT”) 211.462-010), shoe packer (DOT 920.687-166), and storage clerk (DOT 295.367-026) and, thus, is not disabled. [AR 30-31.]

         III. GOVERNING STANDARD

         Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the Court reviews the Commissioner's decision to determine if: (1) the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence; and (2) the Commissioner used correct legal standards. See Carmickle v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 533 F.3d 1155, 1159 (9th Cir. 2008); Hoopai v. Astrue, 499 F.3d 1071, 1074 (9th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (internal citation and quotations omitted); see also Hoopai, 499 F.3d at 1074.

         IV. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff's sole claim is that the ALJ improperly found Plaintiff's testimony not fully credible. [Pltf.'s Br. at 6-11.]

         In response to a pain questionnaire, Plaintiff stated that he has left knee and left foot pain as well as migraines.[1] Plaintiff reported that his left extremity pain is aggravated by walking, wearing shoes, and not keeping his leg elevated. [AR 209-210.] Plaintiff also stated in his function report that he is unable to stand for prolonged periods and “walking is a struggle.” [AR 213.] Plaintiff needs to sit down in order to shave and get dressed. [AR 214.] He uses a cane, crutches, and walker to assist with mobility. [AR 219.] Plaintiff testified at the hearing that he “can't stand up too good” and wears two knee braces, which his doctor prescribed. [AR 49-50.] Plaintiff testified that his knees and left ...


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