United States District Court, E.D. California
ALLISON CLAIRE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner
of Social Security (“Commissioner”), denying his
application for supplemental security income
(“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security
Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1383f.
reasons that follow, the court will deny plaintiff's
motion for summary judgment and grant defendant's
cross-motion for summary judgment.
December 3, 2014, plaintiff protectively filed an application
for SSI. Administrative Record (“AR”)
198-206. The disability onset date was alleged to
be December 3, 2014. AR 33. The application was disapproved
initially and on reconsideration. AR 89, 117. On November 28,
2016, ALJ Christopher C. Knowdell presided over the hearing
on plaintiff's challenge to the disapprovals. AR 30-61
(transcript). Plaintiff was present and testified at the
hearing. AR 34. Plaintiff was represented during the
administrative proceedings by attorneys Jeffrey L. Milam and
Sengthiene Bosavanh. AR 16, 127. At the hearing, attorney
Cynthian Vosavon represented plaintiff. AR 32. A Vocational
Expert (“VE”), Susan Creighton-Clavel, also
testified at the hearing. Id.
February 1, 2017, the ALJ found plaintiff “not
disabled” under Section 1614(a)(3)(A) of Title XVI of
the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). AR 13-29
(decision). On February 8, 2018, the Appeals Council denied
plaintiff's request for review, leaving the ALJ's
decision as the final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security. AR 1-7 (decision).
filed this action on April 12, 2018. ECF No. 1; see
42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3). The parties
consented to the jurisdiction of the magistrate judge. ECF
Nos. 6, 8. The parties' cross-motions for summary
judgment, based upon the Administrative Record filed by the
Commissioner, have been briefed. ECF Nos. 16 (plaintiff's
summary judgment motion), 17 (Commissioner's summary
was born in 1965, and accordingly was 49 years old on the
alleged disability onset date, making him a “younger
person” under the regulations. AR 200. Plaintiff has at
least a high school education and can communicate in English.
AR 259-61. Plaintiff worked in the past as a roofer, gutter
installer, furniture mover, and cabinet installer. AR 35,
Commissioner's decision that a claimant is not disabled
will be upheld “if it is supported by substantial
evidence and if the Commissioner applied the correct legal
standards.” Howard ex rel. Wolff v. Barnhart,
341 F.3d 1006, 1011 (9th Cir. 2003). “‘The
findings of the Secretary as to any fact, if supported by
substantial evidence, shall be conclusive . . . .'”
Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir.
1995) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)).
evidence is “more than a mere scintilla, ” but
“may be less than a preponderance.” Molina v.
Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1111 (9th Cir. 2012). “It
means such evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (internal quotation
marks omitted). “While inferences from the record can
constitute substantial evidence, only those ‘reasonably
drawn from the record' will suffice.” Widmark
v. Barnhart, 454 F.3d 1063, 1066 (9th Cir. 2006)
this court cannot substitute its discretion for that of the
Commissioner, the court nonetheless must review the record as
a whole, “weighing both the evidence that supports and
the evidence that detracts from the [Commissioner's]
conclusion.” Desrosiers v. Secretary of HHS,
846 F.2d 573, 576 (9th Cir. 1988); Jones v. Heckler,
760 F.2d 993, 995 (9th Cir. 1985) (“The court must
consider both evidence that supports and evidence that
detracts from the ALJ's conclusion; it may not affirm
simply by isolating a specific quantum of supporting
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). “Where the evidence is
susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, one of
which supports the ALJ's decision, the ALJ's
conclusion must be upheld.” Thomas v.
Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002). However,
the court may review only the reasons stated by the ALJ in
her decision “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); Connett v.
Barnhart, 340 F.3d 871, 874 (9th Cir. 2003) (“It
was error for the district court to affirm the ALJ's
credibility decision based on evidence that the ALJ did not
court will not reverse the Commissioner's decision if it
is based on harmless error, which exists only when it is
“clear from the record that an ALJ's error was
‘inconsequential to the ultimate nondisability
determination.'” Robbins v. Soc. Sec.
Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 885 (9th Cir. 2006) (quoting
Stout v. Commissioner, 454 F.3d 1050, 1055 (9th Cir.
2006)); see also Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676,
679 (9th Cir. 2005).
Security Income is available for every eligible individual
who is “disabled.” 42 U.S.C. § 1381a.
Plaintiff is “disabled” if he is
“‘unable to engage in substantial gainful
activity due to a medically determinable physical or mental
impairment . . . .'” Bowen v. Yuckert, 482
U.S. 137, 140 (1987) (quoting identically worded provisions
of 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A)).
Commissioner uses a five-step sequential evaluation process
to determine whether an applicant is disabled and entitled to
benefits. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4); Barnhart v.
Thomas, 540 U.S. 20, 24-25 (2003) (setting forth the
“five-step sequential evaluation process to determine
disability” under Title II and Title XVI). The
following summarizes the sequential evaluation:
Step one: Is the claimant engaging in substantial gainful
activity? If so, the claimant is not disabled. If not,
proceed to step two.
20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(i), (b).
Step two: Does the claimant have a “severe”
impairment? If so, proceed to step three. If not, the
claimant is not disabled.
Id. § 416.920(a)(4)(ii), (c).
Step three: Does the claimant's impairment or combination
of impairments meet or equal an impairment listed in 20
C.F.R., Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1? If so, the claimant is
disabled. If not, proceed to step four.
Id. § 416.920(a)(4)(iii), (d).
Step four: Does the claimant's residual functional
capacity make him capable of performing his past work? If so,
the claimant is not ...