Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

John Z. v. Saul

United States District Court, C.D. California, Eastern Division

July 25, 2019

JOHN Z., Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          PAUL L ABRAMS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I.

         PROCEEDINGS

         Plaintiff[1] filed this action on April 18, 2018, seeking review of the Commissioner's[2] denial of his application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”). The parties filed Consents to proceed before a Magistrate Judge on May 9, 2018, and May 23, 2018. Pursuant to the Court's Order, the parties filed a Joint Submission (alternatively “JS”) on March 13, 2019, that addresses their positions concerning the disputed issue in the case. The Court has taken the Joint Submission under submission without oral argument.

         II.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was born in 1962. [Administrative Record (“AR”) at 25, 171.] He has past relevant work experience in communication equipment sales and as a technical support representative. [AR at 25, 69.]

         On April 7, 2014, plaintiff filed an application for a period of disability and DIB, alleging that he has been unable to work since October 12, 2012. [AR at 18; see AR at 169.] After his application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, plaintiff timely filed a request for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). [AR at 118-21.] A hearing was held on January 9, 2017, at which time plaintiff appeared represented by an attorney, and testified on his own behalf. [AR at 18, 40-78.] A vocational expert (“VE”) also testified. [AR at 68-77.] On February 10, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision concluding that plaintiff was not under a disability from October 12, 2012, the alleged onset date, through February 10, 2017, the date of the decision. [AR at 18-26.] Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ's decision by the Appeals Council. [AR at 165-68.] When the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review on February 12, 2018 [AR at 1-5], the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner. See Sam v. Astrue, 550 F.3d 808, 810 (9th Cir. 2008) (per c uriam) (citations omitted). This action followed.

         III.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court has authority to review the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. The decision will be disturbed only if it is not supported by substantial evidence or if it is based upon the application of improper legal standards. Berry v. Astrue, 622 F.3d 1228, 1231 (9th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted).

         “Substantial evidence means more than a mere scintilla but less than a preponderance; it is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Revels v. Berryhill, 874 F.3d 648, 654 (9th Cir. 2017) (citation omitted). “Where evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the ALJ's decision should be upheld.” Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). However, the Court “must consider the entire record as a whole, weighing both the evidence that supports and the evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's conclusion, and may not affirm simply by isolating a specific quantum of supporting evidence.” Id. (quoting Garrison v. Colvin, 759 F.3d 995, 1009 (9th Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks omitted)). The Court will “review only the reasons provided by the ALJ in the disability determination and may not affirm the ALJ on a ground upon which he did not rely.” Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); see also SEC v. Chenery Corp., 318 U.S. 80, 87, 63 S.Ct. 454, 87 L.Ed. 626 (1943) (“The grounds upon which an administrative order must be judged are those upon which the record discloses that its action was based.”).

         IV.

         THE EVALUATION OF DISABILITY

         Persons are “disabled” for purposes of receiving Social Security benefits if they are unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity owing to a physical or mental impairment that is expected to result in death or which has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at least twelve months. Garcia v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 768 F.3d 925, 930 (9th Cir. 2014) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A)).

         A. THE FIVE-STEP EVALUATION PROCESS

         The Commissioner (or ALJ) follows a five-step sequential evaluation process in assessing whether a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920; Lounsburry v. Barnhart, 468 F.3d 1111, 1114 (9th Cir. 2006) (citing Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098-99 (9th Cir. 1999)). In the first step, the Commissioner must determine whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity; if so, the claimant is not disabled and the claim is denied. Lounsburry, 468 F.3d at 1114. If the claimant is not currently engaged in substantial gainful activity, the second step requires the Commissioner to determine whether the claimant has a “severe” impairment or combination of impairments significantly limiting his ability to do basic work activities; if not, a finding of nondisability is made and the claim is denied. Id. If the claimant has a “severe” impairment or combination of impairments, the third step requires the Commissioner to determine whether the impairment or combination of impairments meets or equals an impairment in the Listing of Impairments (“Listing”) set forth at 20 C.F.R. § 404, subpart P, appendix 1; if so, disability is conclusively presumed and benefits are awarded. Id. If the claimant's impairment or combination of impairments does not meet or equal an impairment in the Listing, the fourth step requires the Commissioner to determine whether the claimant has sufficient “residual functional capacity” to perform his past work; if so, the claimant is not disabled and the claim is denied. Id. The claimant has the burden of proving that he is unable to perform past relevant work. Drouin v. Sullivan, 966 F.2d 1255, 1257 (9th Cir. 1992). If the claimant meets this burden, a prima facie case of disability is established. Id. The Commissioner then bears the burden of establishing that the claimant is not disabled because there is other work existing in “significant numbers” in the national or regional economy the claimant can do, either (1) by the testimony of a VE, or (2) by reference to the Medical-Vocational Guidelines at 20 C.F.R. part 404, subpart P, appendix 2. Lounsburry, 468 F.3d at 1114. The determination of this issue comprises the fifth and final step in the sequential analysis. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920; Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 721, 828 n.5 (9th Cir. 1995); Drouin, 966 F.2d at 1257.

         B. THE ALJ'S APPLICATION OF THE FIVE-STEP PROCESS

         At step one, the ALJ found that plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity from October 12, 2012, the alleged onset date, through July 22, 2015, a period of more than 12 consecutive months.[3] [AR at 20.] However, he also found that plaintiff engaged in substantial gainful activity from July 22, 2015, through the date of the decision.[4] At step two, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff had the severe impairments of diabetes mellitus with associated neuropathy in upper and lower extremities, and obesity. [AR at 21.] At step three, the ALJ determined that plaintiff did not have an impairment or a combination of impairments that met or medically equaled any of the impairments in the Listing. [Id.] The ALJ further found that during the relevant period plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”)[5] to perform a less than light level of exertional work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b), [6] as follows:

Specifically, [he] could lift, carry, push and pull 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently. He could stand and walk for 2 hours out of an 8-hour period. He could sit for 6 hours out of an 8-hour day, but only for 3 hours at a time. [He] could occasionally balance, squat, crawl, climb, stoop, crouch and kneel. He could not have any exposure to unprotected heights. [He] could frequently work around moving machinery, frequently be exposed to marked temperature changes, and frequently drive a motor vehicle. He could have occasional exposure to dust, fumes, gases and noise. Additionally, due to fatigue and ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.