United States District Court, C.D. California
PATRICK K. G.,  Plaintiff,
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
ROZELLA A. OLIVER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Patrick K. G. (“Plaintiff”) challenges the
Commissioner's denial of his application for a period of
disability and disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”). For the reasons stated below, the
decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED.
April 15, 2015, Plaintiff filed a Title II application for
DIB alleging disability beginning January 11, 2013.
(Administrative Record (“AR”) 524-27.) Plaintiff
later amended his alleged onset date to December 7, 2014.
(See AR 636.) His application was denied initially
on September 11, 2015, and upon reconsideration on January 5,
2016. (AR 452, 460.) On January 25, 2016, Plaintiff filed a
written request for hearing, and a hearing was held on August
29, 2017. (AR 81, 467.) Represented by counsel, Plaintiff
appeared and testified, along with an impartial vocational
expert. (AR 83-113.) On September 12, 2017, the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found that
Plaintiff had not been under a disability, pursuant to the
Social Security Act,  since December 7, 2014. (AR 74-75.) The
ALJ's decision became the Commissioner's final
decision when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's
request for review. (AR 1.) Plaintiff filed this action on
June 29, 2018. (Dkt. No. 1.)
followed a five-step sequential evaluation process to assess
whether Plaintiff was disabled under the Social Security Act.
See Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 828 n.5 (9th Cir.
1995). At step one, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since December 7, 2014, the alleged onset date
(“AOD”). (AR 63.) At step two,
the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: degenerative disc disease; osteoarthritis of the
left knee; a history of rotator cuff syndrome; obesity; and
sleep apnea. (Id.) At step three,
the ALJ found that Plaintiff “does not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that meets or
medically equals the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.”
proceeding to step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to:
[P]erform medium work . . . except he can frequently climb
stairs and ramps and occasionally climb ladders, ropes and
scaffolds. He can frequently balance, stoop, kneel, crouch
and crawl. He can have frequent exposure to conditions of
extreme heat and pulmonary irritants such as dusts, odors,
fumes and the like.
(AR 66.) At step four, based on
Plaintiff's RFC and the vocational expert's
testimony, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was unable to perform
any past relevant work. (AR 72.) At step
five, the ALJ found that “there are jobs that
exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the
claimant can perform.” (AR 73.) Accordingly, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff had not been under a disability
from the AOD through the date of decision. (AR 74-75.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
42 U.S.C. § 405(g), a district court may review the
Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. A court must
affirm an ALJ's findings of fact if they are supported by
substantial evidence and if the proper legal standards were
applied. Mayes v. Massanari, 276 F.3d 453, 458-59
(9th Cir. 2001). “‘Substantial evidence'
means more than a mere scintilla, but less than a
preponderance; it is such relevant evidence as a reasonable
person might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Lingenfelter v. Astrue, 504 F.3d
1028, 1035 (9th Cir. 2007) (citing Robbins v. Soc. Sec.
Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006)). An ALJ can
satisfy the substantial evidence requirement “by
setting out a detailed and thorough summary of the facts and
conflicting clinical evidence, stating his interpretation
thereof, and making findings.” Reddick v.
Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 725 (9th Cir. 1998) (citation
Commissioner's decision cannot be affirmed simply by
isolating a specific quantum of supporting evidence. Rather,
a court must consider the record as a whole, weighing both
evidence that supports and evidence that detracts from the
Secretary's conclusion.” Aukland v.
Massanari, 257 F.3d 1033, 1035 (9th Cir. 2001)
(citations and internal quotation marks omitted).
“‘Where evidence is susceptible to more than one
rational interpretation,' the ALJ's decision should
be upheld.” Ryan v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
528 F.3d 1194, 1198 (9th Cir. 2008) (citing Burch v.
Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005)); see
Robbins, 466 F.3d at 882 (“If the evidence can
support either affirming or reversing the ALJ's
conclusion, we may not substitute our judgment for that of
the ALJ.”). The Court may 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.” Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th
Cir. 2007) (citing Connett v. Barnhart, 340 F.3d
871, 874 (9th Cir. 2003)).
raises the following issues for review: (1) whether the RFC
assessment is supported by substantial evidence; and (2)
whether the ALJ properly evaluated Plaintiff's subjective
complaints. (See Joint Submission (“JS”)
4.) For the reasons below, the Court affirms.
The ALJ Properly Evaluated Plaintiff's Subjective
argues that the ALJ failed to properly consider
Plaintiff's subjective testimony. (JS 13-14.) The
Commissioner argues that the ALJ provided legally sufficient
reasons for discounting Plaintiff's complaints. (JS
last worked installing solar panels in 2013. (AR 89.) He
injured his knee and back, and he could no longer do the job.
(AR 90.) Plaintiff saw an orthopedic surgeon for pain
management and therapy. (Id.) He was laid off or
terminated from his job, but he still received medical care
for five years. (Id.)
drove himself to the hearing. (AR 88.) He lives in his own
home with his wife, son, and grandson. (AR 91.) Plaintiff
also has two houses, which he inherited from his parents,
that he rents for income. (AR 91, 93.) Plaintiff writes a
receipt when a tenant mails a check, and his son does the
maintenance for the rental properties. (AR 92.) Plaintiff
explained that he keeps the rent low as an incentive for
tenants to take care of their own minor maintenance.
(See AR 93.) Plaintiff hires a contractor for large
jobs, such as plumbing. (AR 92.)
testified that, according to his doctor, Plaintiff's
blood pressure and cholesterol are high due to his weight.
(AR 87-88.) Plaintiff's painkillers make it hard to lose
weight. (AR 88.) Plaintiff also has sleep apnea, and he uses
a CPAP machine. (AR 97.)
stated that he has problems waking up because his medication
makes him groggy. (AR 94.) He usually stays home with his
wife or grandson. (Id.) Plaintiff's grandson,
who is disabled, goes to school during the day. (AR 94-95.)
When his grandson is home, Plaintiff gets him milk and
changes his diapers. (AR 95.) Plaintiff explained that he
does not need to lift his grandson, and when he changes his
diapers, his grandson lifts his own feet up. (AR 105.)
tries to do as much cooking, cleaning, laundry, and yard work
as he can, but he is “discouraged now because [he]
can't do it.” (AR 95.) He explained that his yard
is overgrown. (AR 96.) Plaintiff needs help putting on his
socks and shoes. (AR 104.)
to Plaintiff, his neurologist says that Plaintiff has nerve
damage from his legs “all the way up.” (AR 96.)
Plaintiff also has problems with his neck, back, and legs.
(Id.) Plaintiff's knees give out, and he almost
falls to the ground. (Id.) Plaintiff is receiving
alignments, heat treatments, and electro stimulus for his
back. (AR 99.) He was prescribed a brace for his left knee.
(Id.) Plaintiff stated that he sometimes cannot pick
up a cup of coffee because of the arthritis in his wrists.
(AR 96.) Plaintiff also stated that he has hearing loss due
to the equipment used when Plaintiff was a machinist and
worked in construction. (AR 97.) Plaintiff explained that he
cannot hear certain frequencies. (AR 105.) He has been
prescribed hearing aids, but he cannot afford them.
testified that he can stand for about ten minutes before he
needs to change position. (AR 103.) With medication, he can
stand for a half hour to an hour, and he can sit for up to an
hour. (AR 103-04.) According to Plaintiff, he can lift about
ten pounds. (Id.)
Plaintiff's Function Report
submitted a Function Report in May 2015, which was written in
the first person but was completed by a third party. (AR
593-601.) Plaintiff explained that he has severe pain in his
lower back and left knee, which makes it painful for him to
walk, stand, sit, bend, climb, or kneel. (AR 593.) Plaintiff
also gets ...