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Cooper-Belanger v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. California

May 29, 2018

KAREN AGATHA COOPER-BELANGER, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER

          CAROLYN K. DELANEY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying an application for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (“Act”). For the reasons discussed below, the court will deny plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and grant the Commissioner's cross-motion for summary judgment.[1]

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, born May 21, 1962, applied on February 17, 2010 for SSI, alleging disability beginning February 2, 2009. Administrative Transcript (“AT”) 174-178. Plaintiff alleged she was unable to work due to a concussion in 2004, poor memory, depression, and chronic headaches. AT 106. In a decision dated April 13, 2012, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled.[2] AT 28-40. Plaintiff sought review of this decision in a federal case, Cooper-Belanger v. Colvin, No 2:14-cv-0533 DAD (E.D. Cal.), and on September 8, 2015, the court reversed the Commissioner's decision and remanded for further administrative proceedings. (AT 655-669.) The court noted that “the ALJ's treatment of plaintiff's subjective testimony was plaintiff's sole challenge to the ALJ's opinion presented in this action.” (AT 668.) As to the scope of remand, the court instructed: “On remand, if the ALJ again finds plaintiff to be less than credible, the ALJ shall offer specific, clear and convincing reasons for doing so.” (AT 668.) The Appeals Council subsequently vacated the ALJ's 2012 decision and remanded the case for a new decision consistent with the court's order. (AT 673.)

         After a second hearing on plaintiff's claim for benefits, on December 15, 2016, the ALJ issued a second decision determining that plaintiff was not disabled. (AT 577-591.) The ALJ made the following findings (citations to 20 C.F.R. omitted):

1. The claimant last met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act on December 31, 2012.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity during the period from her alleged onset date of February 2, 2009 through her date last insured of December 31, 2012.
3. Through the date last insured, the claimant had the following severe impairments: headaches, depression, and fibromyalgia.
4. Through the date last insured, the claimant did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that, through the date last insured, the claimant had the residual functional capacity to perform light work, simple repetitive tasks with no frequent public contact.
6. Through the date last insured, the claimant was unable to perform any past relevant work.
7. The claimant was born on May 21, 1962, which defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the date last insured.
8. The claimant has at least a high-school education and is able to communicate in English.
9. Transferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability because using the Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding that the claimant is ‘not disabled' whether or not the claimant has transferable job skills.
10. Through the date last insured, considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there were jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant could have performed.

AT 579-590.

         ISSUES PRESENTED

         Plaintiff argues that the ALJ failed to articulate legally sufficient reasons for discounting her subjective complaints.

         LEGAL ...


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