United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER DIRECTING ENTRY OF JUDGMENT IN FAVOR OF
DEFENDANT NANCY BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL
SECURITY, AND AGAINST PLAINTIFF MICHELLE ENTROCASCO
S. AUSTIN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Michelle Entrocasco (“Plaintiff”), seeks judicial
review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security (“Commissioner” or
“Defendant”) denying her application for
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) pursuant to
Title XVI of the Social Security Act. The matter is currently
before the Court on the parties' briefs which were
submitted without oral argument to the Honorable Gary S.
Austin, United States Magistrate Judge. (See,
Docs. 23 and 25). Upon a review of the entire record, the
Court finds that the ALJ's decision is supported by
substantial evidence. Accordingly, the Court AFFIRMS the
agency's disability determination and DENIES
FACTS AND PRIOR PROCEEDINGS
filed an application for SSI alleging she was disabled
beginning January 1, 2012, due to asthma and scoliosis. AR
86-96; 107. The parties agree that the Plaintiff properly
exhausted her administrative remedies and that the Appeals
Council denied Plaintiff's appeal. (Doc. 23, pg. 2 and
Doc. 25, pg. 2). Therefore, this appeal is a review of
Administrative Law Judge Andrew Verne's
(“ALJ”) decision issued on April 10, 2015, which
is considered the Commissioner's final order.
See, 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3). AR
Summary of the Medical Record
Court has reviewed the entire medical record. Relevant
portions of the record will be referenced in the discussion
where appropriate. AR 161-238.
THE ISSUES PRESENTED
argues that the ALJ: (1) improperly concluded that her
degenerative disc disease was a non-severe impairment at step
two; (2) failed to properly evaluate Plaintiff's
testimony; and (3) committed legal error by not addressing
the testimony of several lay witnesses. (Doc. 23, pgs.
12-20). She requests that the case be remanded for further
consideration of these issues. (Doc. 23, pgs. 12-20). In
opposition, the Commissioner argues that the ALJ: 1) properly
found Plaintiff's disc disease was a non-severe
impairment; 2) properly discounted Plaintiff's testimony;
and 3) any errors committed in failing to address lay witness
testimony are harmless because Plaintiff has not produced any
testimony that would have altered the outcome of the
ALJ's decision. As such, the ALJ's decision should be
affirmed. (Doc. 25, pgs. 13).
THE DISABILITY STANDARD
qualify for benefits under the Social Security Act, a
plaintiff must establish that he or she 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 twelve 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.
achieve uniformity in the decision-making process, the
Commissioner has established a sequential five-step process
for evaluating a claimant's alleged disability. 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.920(a). The ALJ proceeds through the steps and
stops upon reaching a dispositive finding that the claimant
is or is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4). The
ALJ must consider objective medical evidence and opinion
testimony. 20 C.F.R. § 416.913.
the ALJ is required to determine: (1) whether a claimant
engaged in substantial gainful activity during the period of
alleged disability; (2) whether the claimant had
medically-determinable “severe” impairments; (3)
whether these impairments meet or are medically equivalent to
one of the listed impairments set forth in 20 C.F.R. §
404, Subpart P, Appendix 1; (4) whether the claimant retained
the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to
perform his past relevant work; and (5) whether the claimant had
the ability to perform other jobs existing in significant
numbers at the regional and national level. 20 C.F.R. §
SUMMARY OF THE ALJ'S DECISION
the Social Security Administration's five-step sequential
evaluation process, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 16, 2012.
AR 14. At step two, the ALJ identified scoliosis and asthma
as severe impairments, however he also determined that
Plaintiff's mild diffuse bulging disc, substance
addition, and depression were not severe impairments. AR
14-16. At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not
have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled one of the listing impairments in 20 C.F.R.
Part 404 P, Appendix 1. AR 16. However, the ALJ also
determined that Plaintiff had the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to: lift and carry fifty pounds
occasionally and twenty-five pounds frequently; sit, stand,
and walk for a total of six hours in an eight-hour workday;
and frequently climb ramps, stairs, ladders, ropes and
scaffolds; in addition, she could balance, stoop, kneel, and
crouch. AR16-20. In reaching this conclusion, the ALJ found
that Plaintiff's statements concerning the intensity,
persistence, and limiting effects of her symptoms were not
entirely credible. AR 16-18.
the above, at step four, the ALJ found Plaintiff could
perform her past relevant work as a housekeeper. AR 19-20.
Alternatively, at step five, the ALJ considered the testimony
of a vocational expert and concluded that other jobs also
existed in significant numbers in the national economy that
Plaintiff could perform, including working as a dishwasher, a
laundry worker, and a hospital housekeeper. AR 20. The ALJ
therefore concluded Plaintiff was not disabled. AR 20.
THE STANDARD OF REVIEW
42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the
Commissioner's decision to determine whether (1) it is
supported by substantial evidence, and (2) it applies the
correct legal standards. See Carmickle v.
Commissioner, 533 F.3d 1155, 1159 (9th Cir. 2008);
Hoopai v. Astrue, 499 F.3d 1071, 1074 (9th Cir.
evidence means more than a scintilla but less than a
preponderance.” Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d
947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002). It is “relevant evidence
which, considering the record as a whole, a reasonable person
might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Id. Where the evidence is susceptible to more than
one rational ...