United States District Court, C.D. California
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER AFFIRMING DECISION OF
THE COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY
E. McDERMOTT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
April 22, 2018, Chanti Nakia Greene (“Plaintiff”
or “Claimant”) filed a complaint seeking review
of the decision by the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying Plaintiff's
application for Supplemental Security Income benefits. (Dkt.
1.) The Commissioner filed an Answer on September 5, 2018.
(Dkt. 19.) On December 17, 2018, the parties filed a Joint
Stipulation (“JS”). (Dkt. 24.) The matter is now
ready for decision.
to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), both parties consented to proceed
bef ore this Magistrate Judge. After reviewing the pleadings,
transcripts, and administrative record (“AR”),
the Court concludes that the Commissioner's decision must
be affirmed and this case dismissed with prejudice.
is a 44 year-old male who applied for Supplemental Security
Income benefits on February 10, 2014, alleging disability
beginning August 1, 2013. (AR 21.) Since there is a period of
more than 12 months when Plaintiff did not perform
substantial gainful activity, a decision cannot be made based
solely on Plaintiff's work activity. (AR 24.)
Plaintiff's claim was denied initially on July 31, 2014,
and on reconsideration on November 20, 2014. (AR 21.)
Plaintiff filed a timely request for hearing, which was held
before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Debra J.
Denney on June 14, 2016, in Denver, Colorado. (AR 21.)
Although informed of his right to representation, Plaintiff
chose to appear and testify without the assistance of an
attorney or other representative. (AR 21.) Vocational expert
(“VE”) Robin Cook also appeared and testified at
the hearing. (AR 21.)
issued an unfavorable decision on August 24, 2016. (AR
21-31.) The Appeals Council denied review on June 21, 2017.
reflected in the Joint Stipulation, Plaintiff raises the
following disputed issues as grounds for reversal and remand:
1. Whether the ALJ erred in evaluating physician opinions.
2. Whether the ALJ erred in evaluating the Plaintiff's
symptoms and testimony.
3. Whether the ALJ erred in determining Plaintiff's
residual functional capacity.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the ALJ's
decision to determine whether the ALJ's findings are
supported by substantial evidence and free of legal error.
Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1279 (9th Cir.
1996); see also DeLorme v. Sullivan, 924 F.2d 841,
846 (9th Cir. 1991) (ALJ's disability determination must
be supported by substantial evidence and based on the proper
evidence means “‘more than a mere scintilla,'
but less than a preponderance.” Saelee v.
Chater, 94 F.3d 520, 521-22 (9th Cir. 1996) (quoting
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)).
Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401 (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted).
Court must review the record as a whole and consider adverse
as well as supporting evidence. Robbins v. Soc. Sec.
Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006). Where
evidence is susceptible to more than one rational
interpretation, the ALJ's decision must be upheld.
Morgan v. Comm'r of the Soc. Sec. Admin., 169
F.3d 595, 599 (9th Cir. 1999). “However, a reviewing
court must consider the entire record as a whole and may not
affirm simply by isolating a ‘specific quantum of
supporting evidence.'” Robbins, 466 F.3d at 882
(quoting Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th
Cir. 1989)); see also Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625,
630 (9th Cir. 2007).
Social Security Act defines disability as the
“inability to engage in any substantial gainful
activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or
mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or
. . . can be expected to last for a continuous period of not
less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. §§
423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). The Commissioner has
established a five-step sequential process to determine
whether a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§
first step is to determine whether the claimant is presently
engaging in substantial gainful activity. Parra v.
Astrue, 481 F.3d 742, 746 (9th Cir. 2007). If the
claimant is engaging in substantial gainful activity,
disability benefits will be denied. Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987). Second, the ALJ must
determine whether the claimant has a severe impairment or
combination of impairments. Parra, 481 F.3d at 746. An
impairment is not severe if it does not significantly limit
the claimant's ability to work. Smolen, 80 F.3d
at 1290. Third, the ALJ must determine whether the impairment
is listed, or equivalent to an impairment listed, in 20
C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, Appendix I of the regulations.
Parra, 481 F.3d at 746. If the impairment meets or
equals one of the listed impairments, the claimant is
presumptively disabled. Bowen, 482 U.S. at 141.
Fourth, the ALJ must determine whether the impairment
prevents the claimant from doing past relevant work.
Pinto v. Massanari, 249 F.3d 840, 844-45 (9th Cir.
2001). Before making the step four determination, the ALJ
first must determine the claimant's residual functional
capacity (“RFC”). 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(e).
The RFC is “the most [one] can still do despite [his or
her] limitations” and represents an assessment
“based on all the relevant evidence.” 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1545(a)(1), 416.945(a)(1). The RFC must
consider all of the claimant's impairments, including
those that are not severe. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(e),
416.945(a)(2); Social Security Ruling (“SSR”)
claimant cannot perform his or her past relevant work or has
no past relevant work, the ALJ proceeds to the fifth step and
must determine whether the impairment prevents the claimant
from performing any other substantial gainful activity.
Moore v. Apfel,216 F.3d 864, 869 (9th Cir. 2000).
The claimant bears the burden of proving steps one through
four, consistent with the general rule that at all times the
burden is on the claimant to establish his or her entitlement
to benefits. Parra, 481 F.3d at 746. Once this prima facie
case is established by the claimant, the burden shifts to the
Commissioner to show that the claimant may perform other
gainful activity. Lounsburry v. Barnhart, 468 F.3d
1111, 1114 (9th Cir. 2006). To support a finding that a
claimant is not disabled at step five, the Commissioner must
provide evidence demonstrating that other work exists in
significant No. in the ...