United States District Court, E.D. California
JORDAN M.S. HASTIE, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
CAROLYN K. DELANEY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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”). The parties have consented to
Magistrate Judge jurisdiction to conduct all proceedings in
the case, including the entry of final judgment. For the
reasons discussed below, the court will grant plaintiff's
motion for summary judgment and deny the Commissioner's
cross-motion for summary judgment.
born in 1996, applied on June 16, 2014 for SSI, alleging
disability beginning December 15, 2006. Administrative
Transcript (“AT”) 21, 32, 191. He later amended
his alleged onset date to June 16, 2014. (AT 66.)
Plaintiff alleged he was unable to work due to a learning
disability and partial trisomy 13. AT 245. In a decision
dated August 19, 2016, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was
not disabled. AT 21-34. The ALJ made the following
findings (citations to 20 C.F.R. omitted):
1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since June 16, 2014, the application date.
2. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
chromosomal disorder and intellectual disability.
3. The claimant does 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.
4. After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all
exertional levels but with the following nonexertional
limitations: the claimant can perform simple, repetitive
5. The claimant has no past relevant work.
6. The claimant was born on XX/XX/1996 and was 18 years old,
which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49 on the
date the application was filed.
7. The claimant has at least a high-school education and is
able to communicate in English.
8. Transferability of job skills is not an issue in this case
because the claimant does not have past relevant work.
9. Considering the claimant's age, education, work
experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy
that the claimant can perform.
10. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, since June 16, 2014, the date the
application was filed.
argues that the ALJ committed the following error in finding
plaintiff not disabled: The ALJ's RFC finding that
plaintiff could perform simple, routine, repetitive work was
not supported by substantial evidence.
court reviews the Commissioner's decision to determine
whether (1) it is based on proper legal standards pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 405(g), and (2) substantial evidence in the
record as a whole supports it. Tackett v. Apfel, 180
F.3d 1094, 1097 (9th Cir. 1999). Substantial evidence is more
than a mere scintilla, but less than a preponderance.
Connett v. Barnhart, 340 F.3d 871, 873 (9th Cir.
2003) (citation omitted). It means “such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d
625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007), quoting Burch v. Barnhart,
400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005). “The ALJ is
responsible for determining credibility, resolving conflicts
in medical testimony, and resolving ambiguities.”
Edlund v. Massanari, 253 F.3d 1152, 1156 (9th Cir.
2001) (citations omitted). “The court will uphold the
ALJ's conclusion when the evidence is susceptible to more
than one rational interpretation.” Tommasetti v.
Astrue, 533 F.3d 1035, 1038 (9th Cir. 2008).
record as a whole must be considered, Howard v.
Heckler, 782 F.2d 1484, 1487 (9th Cir. 1986), and both
the evidence that supports and the evidence that detracts
from the ALJ's conclusion weighed. See Jones v.
Heckler, 760 F.2d 993, 995 (9th Cir. 1985). The court
may not affirm the ALJ's decision simply by isolating a
specific quantum of supporting evidence. Id.;
see also Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th
Cir. 1989). If substantial evidence supports the
administrative findings, or if there is conflicting evidence
supporting a finding of either disability or nondisability,
the finding of the ALJ is conclusive, see Sprague v.
Bowen, 812 F.2d 1226, 1229-30 (9th Cir. 1987), and may
be set aside only if an improper legal standard was applied
in weighing the evidence. See Burkhart v. Bowen, 856
F.2d 1335, 1338 (9th Cir. 1988).
court first notes the following background findings from the
ALJ's decision: “Genetic testing shows that the
claimant has a rare chromosomal disorder called Partial
Trisomy 13q . . . associated with shorter life expectancy and
other medical problems [including] developmental delays,
partial absence seizures, attention deficit disorder,
nocturnal enuresis, and intellectual disability. Multiple
administrations of psychometric tests confirm he has
borderline intellectual functioning.” After the June
2014 application date, plaintiff “worked at REI as part
of a college program at Fresno State, the Wayfinders Program,
which is a 2-year postsecondary transition program for
students with intellectual disabilities. He worked seven
hours a week [and] did not earn income at the substantial
gainful activity level.” AT 24; record citations
to plaintiff's argument, “[p]laintiff agrees that,
as far as it goes, the ALJ's RFC for simple, routine,
repetitive work . . . is accurate.” (ECF No. 14-2 at
15; record citation omitted). However, plaintiff argues,
“[i]n addition to plaintiff's obvious limitation to
simple tasks, the record patently supports additional
limitations which, at a minimum, include his demonstrated
need for frequent to constant support while performing tasks;
that, even with the support, he can perform such tasks at a
slow pace and not always accurately; and a host of
social/interpersonal issues relating to his immaturity and
bedwetting/defecating himself.” (Id. at
Security Ruling 96-8p sets forth the policy interpretation of
the Commissioner for assessing residual functional capacity.
SSR 96-8p. Residual functional capacity is what a person
“can still do despite [the individual's]
limitations.” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1545(a),
416.945(a) (2003); see also Valencia v. Heckler, 751
F.2d 1082, 1085 (9th Cir. 1985) (residual functional capacity
reflects current “physical and mental
capabilities”). RFC is assessed based on the relevant
evidence in the case record, including the medical history,
medical source statements, and subjective descriptions and
observations made by the claimant, family, neighbors,
friends, or other persons. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1545(a)(1), 404.1545(a)(3). When assessing RFC, the ALJ
must consider the claimant's “ability to meet the
physical, mental, sensory, and other requirements of
work[.]” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1545(a)(4).
plaintiff argues, the ALJ improperly discounted the opinions
of two physicians, Dr. Tezcan and Dr. Nakagawa, who indicated
that plaintiff had ...