United States District Court, S.D. California
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON MOTION AND CROSS MOTION
FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [ECF NOS 16, 19]
MITCHELL D. DEMBIN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Phillip Korngold (“Plaintiff”) filed this action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of
the final administrative decision of the Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”)
denying Plaintiff's application for Disability Insurance
Benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act
(“Act”). (ECF No. 1).
reasons expressed herein, the Court recommends the case be
REMANDED to the ALJ for further analysis on the issue of
whether Plaintiff's treating physician's opinions
were properly discounted regarding Plaintiff's alleged
September 8, 2014, Plaintiff filed an application for a
period of disability insurance benefits under Title II of the
Social Security Act, alleging a disability beginning May 4,
2013. (AR 16). After his application was denied initially and
upon reconsideration, Plaintiff requested an administrative
hearing before and administrative law judge
(“ALJ”). (Id.). An administrative
hearing was held on December 15, 2016. Plaintiff appeared and
elected to proceed without counsel, after being advised of
his right to representation. (Id.). Also appearing
and testifying were Dr. Joseph Gaeta, M.D., a medical expert
(ME) and Gloria Lasoff a vocational expert (VE).
(Id.). On March 1, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision
denying Plaintiff's claim for benefits. (AR 16-28).
405(g) and 1383(c)(3) of the Social Security Act allow
unsuccessful applicants to seek judicial review of a final
agency decision of the Commissioner. 42 U.S.C. §§
405(g), 1383(c)(3). The scope of judicial review is limited
in that a denial of benefits will not be disturbed if it is
supported by substantial evidence and contains no legal
error. Id.; see also Batson v. Comm'r Soc.
Sec. Admin, 359 F.3d 1190, 1993 (9th Cir. 2004).
evidence means “more than a mere scintilla” but
less than a preponderance. Sandqathe v. Chater, 108
F.3d 978, 980 (9th Cir. 1997). “[I]t is such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Id. (quoting
Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir.
1995)). The court must consider the record as a whole,
weighing both the evidence that supports and detracts from
the Commissioner's conclusions. Desrosiers v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Services, 846 F.2d 573,
576 (9th Cir. 1988). If the evidence supports more than one
rational interpretation, the court must uphold the ALJ's
decision. Batson, 359 F.3d at 1193. When the
evidence is inconclusive, “questions of credibility and
resolution of conflicts in the testimony are functions solely
of the Secretary.” Sample v. Schweiker, 694
F.2d 639, 642 (9th Cir. 1982).
a reviewing court finds that substantial evidence supports
the ALJ's conclusions, the court must set aside the
decision if the ALJ failed to apply the proper legal
standards in weighing the evidence and reaching his or her
decision. Batson, 359 F.3d at 1193. Section 405(g)
permits a court to enter a judgment affirming, modifying or
reversing the Commissioner's decision. 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). The reviewing court may also remand the matter to the
Social Security Administration for further proceedings.
Summary of the ALJ's Findings
rendering his decision, the ALJ followed the
Commissioner's five step sequential evaluation process.
See CFR § 404.1520. At step one, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since May 4, 2013, the alleged onset date. (AR
two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: Conn's Disease, resulting in hypertension
and congestive heart failure; and coronary disease.
(Id.). However, the ALJ found, based on the record,
Plaintiff “had no severe medically determinable”
impairment from May 4, 2013 to May 3, 2014. Accordingly, the
ALJ denied Plaintiff's application for that timeframe at
step two. (Id.). But the ALJ did find the record
indicates the [Plaintiff] received treatment for the above
severe impairments beginning May 4, 2014, for a period of
more than 12 consecutive months. Thus, the ALJ continued his
sequential analysis. (AR 19).
to the ALJ “the medical and other evidence that the
[Plaintiff's] medically determinable impairments of
dizziness, muscle spasm, glaucoma, foot and ankle edema,
allergies, kidney disease, and a fractured femur and tibia
cause only a slight abnormality that would have no more than