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Widle v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, E.D. California

May 2, 2018

JEFFREY WILDE, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

          CRAIG M. TATES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff, who is proceeding with retained counsel, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security. Pending before the court are plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 15) and defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment (Doc. 20).

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff applied for social security benefits on February 29, 2012. In the application, plaintiff claims that disability began on December 28, 2010. Plaintiff's claim was initially denied. Following denial of reconsideration, plaintiff requested an administrative hearing, which was held on February 27, 2014, before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Carol A. Eckersen. In an August 4, 2014, decision, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff is not disabled based on the following relevant findings:

1. The claimant has the following severe impairment(s): ischemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, mild hip osteoarthritis, lumbar degenerative disc disease, diabetes mellitus, and obesity;
2. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals an impairment listed in the regulations;
3. The claimant has the following residual functional capacity: the claimant can perform sedentary work; he can occasionally climb ramps or stairs, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; he can frequently balance; he should never climb ladders and he should avoid concentrated exposure to cold, heat, wetness and humidity, noise, vibration, fumes, odors, and hazards; the claimant should have a sit/stand option to change position at the workstation twice per hour and take normal breaks; and
4. Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, residual functional capacity, and vocational expert testimony, the claimant can perform his past relevant work as a data entry clerk and a telephone technician.

         After the Appeals Council declined review on March 17, 2016, this appeal followed.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The court reviews the Commissioner's final decision to determine whether it is: (1) based on proper legal standards; and (2) supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. See Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1097 (9th Cir. 1999). “Substantial evidence” is more than a mere scintilla, but less than a preponderance. See Saelee v. Chater, 94 F.3d 520, 521 (9th Cir. 1996). It is “. . . such evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 402 (1971). The record as a whole, including both the evidence that supports and detracts from the Commissioner's conclusion, must be considered and weighed. See Howard v. Heckler, 782 F.2d 1484, 1487 (9th Cir. 1986); Jones v. Heckler, 760 F.2d 993, 995 (9th Cir. 1985). The court may not affirm the Commissioner's decision simply by isolating a specific quantum of supporting evidence. See Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989). If substantial evidence supports the administrative findings, or if there is conflicting evidence supporting a particular finding, the finding of the Commissioner is conclusive. See Sprague v. Bowen, 812 F.2d 1226, 1229-30 (9th Cir. 1987). Therefore, where the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, one of which supports the Commissioner's decision, the decision must be affirmed, see Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002), and may be set aside only if an improper legal standard was applied in weighing the evidence, see Burkhart v. Bowen, 856 F.2d 1335, 1338 (9th Cir. 1988).

         III. DISCUSSION

         In his motion for summary judgment, plaintiff argues: (1) the ALJ erred in rejecting his testimony and statements as not credible; and (2) the ALJ failed to correctly identify plaintiff's past relevant work.

         A. Credib ...


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