United States District Court, E.D. California
GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC.
19) ORDER DIRECTING ENTRY OF JUDGMENT IN FAVOR DEFENDANT
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
AND AGAINST PLAINTIFF KENNETH RICHARD HOLBROOK
JENNIFER L. THURSTON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Holbrook asserts he is entitled to benefits under Titles II
and XVI of the Social Security Act. Plaintiff argues the
administrative law judge erred in evaluating his ability to
work, and seeks judicial review of the decision to deny his
applications for benefits. Because the ALJ did not err in
finding Plaintiff is able to perform his past relevant work,
the decision is AFFIRMED and Defendant's
motion for summary judgment is GRANTED.
April 30, 2013, Plaintiff filed applications for a period of
disability, disability insurance benefits, and supplemental
security income. (AR at 10) In each application, Plaintiff
alleged disability beginning in July 1, 2011. (Id.)
The Social Security Administration denied her applications at
the initial level and upon reconsideration. (See
id.) After requesting a hearing, Plaintiff testified
before an ALJ on June 10, 2015. (Id.) The ALJ
determined Plaintiff was not disabled and issued an order
denying benefits on July 28, 2015. (Id. at 10-20)
When the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for
review on September 14, 2016 (id. at 1-3), the
ALJ's findings became the final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”).
Standard of Review
courts have a limited scope of judicial review for disability
claims after a decision by the Commissioner to deny benefits
under the Social Security Act. When reviewing findings of
fact, such as whether a claimant was disabled, the Court must
determine whether the Commissioner's decision is
supported by substantial evidence or is based on legal error.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The ALJ's determination that the
claimant is not disabled must be upheld by the Court if the
proper legal standards were applied and the findings are
supported by substantial evidence. See Sanchez v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Serv., 812 F.2d 509, 510
(9th Cir. 1987).
evidence is “more than a mere scintilla. It means such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (quoting Consol.
Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197 (1938)). The record as
a whole must be considered, because “[t]he court must
consider both evidence that supports and evidence that
detracts from the ALJ's conclusion.” Jones v.
Heckler, 760 F.2d 993, 995 (9th Cir. 1985).
qualify for benefits under the Social Security Act, Plaintiff
must establish he is unable to engage in substantial gainful
activity due to a medically determinable physical or mental
impairment that has lasted or can be expected to last for a
continuous period of not less than 12 months. 42 U.S.C.
§ 1382c(a)(3)(A). An individual shall be considered to
have a disability only if:
his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such
severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work,
but cannot, considering his age, education, and work
experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful
work which exists in the national economy, regardless of
whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he
lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or
whether he would be hired if he applied for work.
42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(B). The burden of proof is on a
claimant to establish disability. Terry v. Sullivan,
903 F.2d 1273, 1275 (9th Cir. 1990). If a claimant
establishes a prima facie case of disability, the burden
shifts to the Commissioner to prove the claimant is able to
engage in other substantial gainful employment. Maounois
v. Heckler, 738 F.2d 1032, 1034 (9th Cir. 1984).
achieve uniform decisions, the Commissioner established a
sequential five-step process for evaluating a claimant's
alleged disability. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520,
416.920(a)-(f). The process requires the ALJ to determine
whether Plaintiff (1) engaged in substantial gainful activity
during the period of alleged disability, (2) had medically
determinable severe impairments (3) that met or equaled one
of the listed impairments set forth in 20 C.F.R. § 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1; and whether Plaintiff (4) had the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform
to past relevant work or (5) the ability to perform other
work existing in significant numbers at the state and
national level. Id. The ALJ must consider
testimonial and objective medical evidence. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1527, 416.927.
Administrative Hearing Testimony
testified that in 2009, he worked at Northgate Shell as
“a manager… and a tow truck driver.” (AR
at 38) When asked to describe his duties, Plaintiff stated:
“I'd drive a tow truck or --people -- help them on
the freeway… and get off the freeway, bring them to
the shop. And then have my mechanic repair their car under my
vision [sic].” (Id.) He reported he was unable
to “lift more than maybe five pounds, ” including
items such as “a two pound alternator [and] half a
pound water pump.” (Id. at 38-39) In addition,
Plaintiff said he “always had someone to help [him] do
the lifting on the heavy stuff.” (Id. at 61)
said he also worked at a different shop where the “only
thing [he] did…was deal with the customers and drive
the tow truck.” (AR at 39) He reported that in his role
as a manager there, he hired and fired employees and was not
responsible to anyone else for the management of the
organization. (Id. at 58)
the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, Vocational
expert Thomas Dechelet (“the VE”) classified
Plaintiff's past work within the past fifteen years as
the following: janitor, DOT 382.664-010; auto technician or
auto mechanic, DOT 621.637-010; manager/ supervisor, DOT
620.131-014; bike repairer, DOT 639.681-010; and tow car
driver, DOT 919.663-026. (AR at 59-63)
reported the Dictionary of Occupational Titles
defined the tow car driver position and auto technician
positions as requiring medium exertion, as would the position
of shop mechanic. (AR at 61, 63) According to the VE, if
Plaintiff was not “capable of doing medium [mechanic
work] -- it's not being done.” (Id. at 61)
However, the VE said, taking Plaintiff's testimony
“at face value, ” then Plaintiff performed the
work at the light exertional level. (Id. at 61-62)
The VE testified the position of manager/supervisor required
light work. (Id. at 62) Further, the VE stated
Plaintiff obtained ...