United States District Court, C.D. California, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
L. ABRAMS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
filed this action on April 20, 2017, seeking review of the
Commissioner's denial of his applications for Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental
Security Income (“SSI”) payments. The parties
filed Consents to proceed before a Magistrate Judge on May 8,
2017, and May 19, 2017. Pursuant to the Court's Order,
the parties filed a Joint Stipulation (alternatively
“JS”) on February 20, 2018, that addresses their
positions concerning the disputed issues in the case. The
Court has taken the Joint Stipulation under submission
without oral argument.
was born on December 25, 1969. [Administrative Record
(“AR”) at 39, 198, 205.] For purposes of his
application for DIB, he has past relevant work experience as
a shipping and receiving clerk, telephone solicitor, and
office machine servicer; he has no past relevant work for
purposes of his application for SSI payments. [AR at 38, 39,
October 9, 2013, plaintiff protectively filed an application
for a period of disability and DIB, and an application for
SSI payments, alleging that he has been unable to work since
May 1, 2003. [AR at 198-204, 205-08.] After his
applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration,
plaintiff timely filed a request for a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). [AR at 152-53.]
A hearing was held on July 8, 2015, at which time plaintiff
appeared represented by an attorney, and testified on his own
behalf. [AR at 48-80.] A medical expert (“ME”)
and a vocational expert (“VE”) also testified.
[AR at 61-67, 74-79.] On August 5, 2015, the ALJ issued a
decision concluding that plaintiff was not under a disability
from May 1, 2003, the alleged onset date, through August 5,
2015, the date of the decision. [AR at 29-41.] Plaintiff
requested review of the ALJ's decision by the Appeals
Council. [AR at 17-20.] When the Appeals Council denied
plaintiff's request for review on February 22, 2017 [AR
at 4-8], the ALJ's decision became the final decision of
the Commissioner. See Sam v. Astrue, 550 F.3d 808,
810 (9th Cir. 2008) (per curiam) (citations
omitted). This action followed.
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court has authority to
review the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. The
decision will be disturbed only if it is not supported by
substantial evidence or if it is based upon the application
of improper legal standards. Berry v. Astrue, 622
F.3d 1228, 1231 (9th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted).
evidence means more than a mere scintilla but less than a
preponderance; it is such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Revels v. Berryhill, 874 F.3d 648, 654 (9th Cir.
2017) (citation omitted). “Where evidence is
susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the
ALJ's decision should be upheld.” Id.
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted). However, the
Court “must consider the entire record as a whole,
weighing both the evidence that supports and the evidence
that detracts from the Commissioner's conclusion, and may
not affirm simply by isolating a specific quantum of
supporting evidence.” Id. (quoting
Garrison v. Colvin, 759 F.3d 995, 1009 (9th Cir.
2014) (internal quotation marks omitted)). The Court will
“review only the reasons provided by the ALJ in the
disability determination and may not affirm the ALJ on a
ground upon which he did not rely.” Id.
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted); see also
SEC v. Chenery Corp., 318 U.S. 80, 87, 63 S.Ct. 454, 87
L.Ed. 626 (1943) (“The grounds upon which an
administrative order must be judged are those upon which the
record discloses that its action was based.”).
EVALUATION OF DISABILITY
are “disabled” for purposes of receiving Social
Security benefits if they are unable to engage in any
substantial gainful activity owing to a physical or mental
impairment that is expected to result in death or which has
lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at
least twelve months. Garcia v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 768 F.3d 925, 930 (9th Cir. 2014) (quoting 42
U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A)).
THE FIVE-STEP EVALUATION PROCESS
Commissioner (or ALJ) follows a five-step sequential
evaluation process in assessing whether a claimant is
disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920;
Lounsburry v. Barnhart, 468 F.3d 1111, 1114 (9th
Cir. 2006) (citing Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094,
1098-99 (9th Cir. 1999)). In the first step, the Commissioner
must determine whether the claimant is currently engaged in
substantial gainful activity; if so, the claimant is not
disabled and the claim is denied. Lounsburry, 468
F.3d at 1114. If the claimant is not currently engaged in
substantial gainful activity, the second step requires the
Commissioner to determine whether the claimant has a
“severe” impairment or combination of impairments
significantly limiting his ability to do basic work
activities; if not, a finding of nondisability is made and
the claim is denied. Id. If the claimant has a
“severe” impairment or combination of
impairments, the third step requires the Commissioner to
determine whether the impairment or combination of
impairments meets or equals an impairment in the Listing of
Impairments (“Listing”) set forth at 20 C.F.R.
§ 404, subpart P, appendix 1; if so, disability is
conclusively presumed and benefits are awarded. Id.
If the claimant's impairment or combination of
impairments does not meet or equal an impairment in the
Listing, the fourth step requires the Commissioner to
determine whether the claimant has sufficient “residual
functional capacity” to perform his past work; if so,
the claimant is not disabled and the claim is denied.
Id. The claimant has the burden of proving that he
is unable to perform past relevant work. Drouin v.
Sullivan, 966 F.2d 1255, 1257 (9th Cir. 1992). If the
claimant meets this burden, a prima facie case of
disability is established. Id. The Commissioner then
bears the burden of establishing that the claimant is not
disabled because there is ...