United States District Court, C.D. California, Western Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
D. Early United States Magistrate Judge.
Huascar V. (“Plaintiff”) filed a Complaint on
September 27, 2018, seeking review of the Commissioner's
denial of his application for Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) benefits. The parties filed a Joint
Stipulation (“Jt. Stip.”) regarding the issues in
dispute on April 29, 2019. The matter now is ready for
filed his application for SSI on August 3, 2015, alleging
disability commencing on July 1, 2014. Administrative Record
(“AR”) 46. After his application was denied (AR
64-69), Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing (AR
70-72), which was held on September 26, 2017 (AR 30-44).
Plaintiff, represented by an attorney, appeared and testified
at the hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). AR 32-39.
December 27, 2017, the ALJ found Plaintiff was not disabled.
AR 15-26. The ALJ found Plaintiff: (i) had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since August 3, 2015; (ii)
suffered from severe impairments of status post bilateral
hand surgery, obesity, and gastroesophageal reflux disease;
(iii) did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equaled a listed
impairment; and (iv) had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform sedentary work except:
[H]e can lift 10 pounds both frequently and occasionally, sit
for six hours of an eight-hour workday, stand and/or walk for
six hours of an eight-hour workday, perform postural
movements occasionally, push and pull with the upper
extremities occasionally, and would be limited to occasional
fine and gross manipulation of the upper extremities.
AR 20-22. The ALJ found Plaintiff was incapable of performing
his past relevant work as a kitchen helper, stock clerk, or
ride attendant; but, given Plaintiff's age, education,
work experience, and RFC, Plaintiff could perform other jobs
existing in significant numbers in the national economy. AR
24-25. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not
under a “disability, ” as defined in the Social
Security Act. AR 25.
31, 2018, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for review, making the ALJ's decision the
Commissioner's final decision. AR 1-6.
Standard of Review
42 U.S.C. § 405(g), a district court may review a
decision to deny benefits. An ALJ's decision should be
upheld if it is free from legal error and supported by
substantial evidence. Brown-Hunter v. Colvin, 806
F.3d 487, 492 (9th Cir. 2015) (as amended); Parra v.
Astrue, 481 F.3d 742, 746 (9th Cir. 2007). Substantial
evidence means 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). It is more than a scintilla, but less than a
preponderance. Id. To determine whether substantial
evidence supports a finding, the reviewing court “must
review the administrative record as a whole, weighing both
the evidence that supports and the evidence that detracts
from the Commissioner's conclusion.” Reddick v.
Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 720 (9th Cir. 1998). “If the
evidence can reasonably support either affirming or
reversing, ” the reviewing court “may not
substitute its judgment” for that of the Commissioner.
Id. at 720-21; see also Molina v. Astrue,
674 F.3d 1104, 1111 (9th Cir. 2012) (“Even when the
evidence is susceptible to more than one rational
interpretation, [the court] must uphold the ALJ's
findings if they are supported by inferences reasonably drawn
from the record.”). Lastly, even if an ALJ errs, the
decision will be affirmed where such error is harmless
(Molina, 674 F.3d at 1115), that is, if it is
“inconsequential to the ultimate nondisability
determination, ” or if “the agency's path may
reasonably be discerned, even if the agency explains its
decision with less than ideal clarity.”
Brown-Hunter, 806 F.3d at 492 (citation omitted).
Standard for Determining Disability
case reaches an ALJ, the ALJ conducts a five-step sequential
evaluation to determine at each step if the claimant is or is
not disabled. See Molina, 674 F.3d at 1110.
First, the ALJ considers whether the claimant currently works
at a job that meets the criteria for “substantial
gainful activity.” Id. If not, the ALJ
proceeds to a second step to determine whether the claimant
has a “severe” medically determinable physical or
mental impairment or combination of impairments that has
lasted for more than twelve months. Id. If so, the
ALJ proceeds to a third step to determine whether the
claimant's impairments render the claimant disabled
because they “meet or equal” any of the
“listed impairments” set forth in the Social
Security regulations at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1. See Rounds v. Comm'r Soc. Sec.
Admin., 807 F.3d 996, 1001 (9th Cir. 2015). If the
claimant's impairments do not meet or equal a
“listed impairment, ” before proceeding to the
fourth step the ALJ assesses the claimant's RFC, that is,
what the claimant can do on a sustained basis despite the
limitations from his impairments. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4); Social Security
determining the claimant's RFC, the ALJ proceeds to the
fourth step and determines whether the claimant has the RFC
to perform past relevant work, either as it was
“actually” performed or as that same job is
“generally” performed in the national economy.
See Stacy v. Colvin, 825 F.3d 563, 569 (9th Cir.
2016). If the claimant cannot perform past relevant work, the
ALJ proceeds to a fifth and final step to determine whether
there is any other work, in light of the claimant's RFC,
age, education, and work experience, that the claimant can
perform and that exists in “significant numbers”
in either the national or regional economies. See Tackett
v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1100-01 (9th Cir. 1999). If the
claimant can do other work, the claimant is not disabled; but
if the claimant cannot do other work and meets the duration
requirement, the claimant is disabled. See id. at
claimant generally bears the burden at each of steps one
through four to show either disability or that the
requirements to proceed to the next step are met; the
claimant bears the ultimate burden to show disability.
See, e.g., Molina, 674 F.3d at 1110;
Johnson v. Shalala, 60 F.3d 1428, 1432 (9th Cir.
1995). However, at Step Five, the ALJ has a
“limited” burden of production to identify
representative jobs that the claimant can perform and that
exist in “significant” numbers in the economy.
See Hill v. Astrue, 698 F.3d 1153, 1161 (9th Cir.
2012); Tackett, 180 F.3d at 1100.
parties present two disputed issues (Jt. Stip. at 2):
Issue No. 1: Did the ALJ properly consider Listing
1.02; and Issue No. 2: Did the ALJ properly ...