United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART
PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, AND GRANTING IN
PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT'S CROSS-MOTION FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT DOCKET NOS. 20-21
M. CHEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
February 2015, Plaintiff Ann Penny-Batten filed both a Title
II application for disability insurance benefits and a Title
XVI application for supplemental security income
(“SSI”). See AR 527-28, 529-37
(applications). Her applications were initially denied in
August 2015, see AR 484-87 (notice), and then, upon
reconsideration, in January 2016. See AR 489-93
(notice). Ms. Penny-Batten subsequently requested a hearing
before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”).
See AR 499-500 (request). A hearing was held before
ALJ David LaBarre in June 2017. See AR 365-435 (ALJ
hearing transcript). On November 15, 2017, ALJ LaBarre issued
his decision, concluding that Ms. Penny-Batten was not
disabled from November 19, 2003, through the date of his
decision. See AR 38 (ALJ decision). Ms.
Penny-Batten asked that the Appeals Council for the Social
Security Administration review the ALJ's decision.
See AR 524-26 (request). On July 20, 2018, the
Appeals Council held that there was no basis to change the
ALJ's decision - even taking into account new evidence
submitted by Ms. Penny-Batten - and therefore denied the
request for review. See AR 1-2 (notice) (stating,
inter alia, that the new evidence “does not
show a reasonable probability that it would change the
outcome of the decision”). Ms. Penny-Batten then
initiated the instant action.
Penny-Batten has exhausted her administrative remedies with
respect to her claims for disability insurance benefits and
SSI. This Court has jurisdiction to review pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g). Ms. Penny-Batten has moved for summary
judgment, seeking a reversal of the ALJ and Appeals
Council's decisions. The Commissioner has cross-moved for
summary judgment. Having considered the parties' briefs
and accompanying submissions, including but not limited to
the administrative record, and good cause appearing therefor,
the Court hereby GRANTS in part and
DENIES in part Ms. Penny-Batten's motion
for summary judgment and GRANTS in part and
DENIES in part the Commissioner's
FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Ms. Penny-Batten initially applied for disability insurance
benefits and SSI in 2015, she primarily claimed that she
suffered from back pain. See, e.g., AR 484 (notice).
However, by the time of the hearing before the ALJ in 2017,
Ms. Penny-Batten put at issue not only her back pain but also
her vertigo/dizziness, which she stated was a result of
kidney problems related to her diabetes. See AR
404-05 (AL hearing transcript).
LaBarre rejected Ms. Penny-Batten's claims for disability
insurance benefits and SSI, applying the five-step sequential
evaluation process provided for by the relevant regulations.
“Step one disqualifies claimants who are engaged in
substantial gainful activity from being considered disabled
under the regulations. Step two disqualifies those claimants
who do not have one or more severe impairments that
significantly limit their physical or mental ability to
conduct basic work activities. Step three automatically
labels as disabled those claimants whose impairment or
impairments meet the duration requirement and are listed or
equal to those listed in a given appendix. Benefits are
awarded at step three if claimants are disabled. Step four
disqualifies those remaining claimants whose impairments do
not prevent them from doing past relevant work. Step five
disqualifies those claimants whose impairments do not prevent
them from doing other work, but at this last step the burden
of proof shifts from the claimant to the government.
Claimants not disqualified by step five are eligible for
Celaya v. Halter, 332 F.3d 1177, 1180 (9th Cir.
instant case, ALJ LaBarre made the following rulings
regarding the five steps.
one, the ALJ found that Ms. Penny-Batten had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since November 19, 2003 (the
original alleged onset date). See AR 39 (ALJ
two, the ALJ determined that Ms. Penny-Batten suffered from
only one severe impairment, i.e., low back myalgia.
See AR 41. The ALJ acknowledged that Ms.
Penny-Batten suffered from other impairments as well -
including diabetes and vertigo/dizziness - but found that
they were not severe. See AR 41. The ALJ noted,
inter alia, that Ms. Penny-Batten's treating
doctors had not “diagnosed any of the syndromes that
can sometimes be associated with diabetes (for example,
chronic kidney disease . . .).” AR 41.
three, the ALJ stated that Ms. Penny-Batten did not have an
impairment, or a combination of impairments, that met or
medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
impairments in the appendix. See AR 43.
four, the ALJ concluded that Ms. Penny-Batten had the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform
light work, see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b),
except she is able to frequently lift and/or carry ten
pounds, can occasionally lift and/or carry twenty pounds, can
sit for up to six hours although she must be permitted to
stand for five minutes after sitting two hours, can stand or
walk a total of six hours, one hour at a time, in an
eight-hour workday with normal breaks, should never climb
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, is able to frequently climb
ramps or stairs, can occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, or
crawl, and can occasionally balance when on narrow, slippery,
or erratically moving services.
Based on this RFC, the ALJ found that Ms. Penny-Batten was
capable of performing her past relevant work as a security
guard as generally performed and as a ball sorter as actually
performed. See AR 50. Accordingly, the ALJ held that
Ms. Penny-Batten was not disabled and therefore not entitled
to disability insurance benefits or SSI.
Ms. Penny-Batten asked the Appeals Council to review the
ALJ's decision, submitting in support of her request
additional evidence related to dizziness, diabetes, and
kidney problems. The Appeals Council denied her request for
review, stating, inter alia, that the bulk of the
new evidence did “not show a reasonable probability
that it would change the outcome of the decision.” AR 2
(Appeals Council decision).