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Janice B. R. v. Saul

United States District Court, C.D. California

August 29, 2019

JANICE B. R., [1] Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDEING DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER

          ALEXANDER F. MACKINNON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff filed this action seeking review of the Commissioner's final decision denying her application for social security disability insurance benefits. In accordance with the Court's case management order, the parties have filed briefs addressing the merits of the disputed issues. The matter is now ready for decision.

         BACKGROUND

         On January 16, 2015, Plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits, alleging disability beginning May 7, 2014. Plaintiff's application was denied. (Administrative Record [“AR”] 167-179.) A hearing took place on February 15, 2017 before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, and a vocational expert (“VE”) testified at the hearing. (AR 114-166.)

         In a decision dated June 22, 2017, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: seizure disorder (psychogenic dystonia), chronic headaches, and generalized anxiety disorder. (AR 56.) After concluding that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or equal any listed impairment, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work with the following limitations: occasional climbing of ramps and stairs; occasional balancing; no climbing ladders, ropes or scaffolds; no exposure to unprotected heights, operating motor vehicles, or being around moving mechanical parts; frequent handling and fingering; simple repetitive tasks and simple work-related decisions; and frequent tolerance in ability to adapt to routine work stresses. (AR 59.) Relying on the testimony of the VE, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was unable to perform her past relevant work as an office manager, but could perform work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (AR 66-67.) Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled from May 7, 2014 through the date of her decision. (AR 67-68.)

         The Appeals Council subsequently denied Plaintiff's request for review (AR 1-7), rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.

         DISPUTED ISSUES

         1. Whether the ALJ erred in failing to consider Plaintiff's borderline age.

         2. Whether the ALJ properly assessed Plaintiff's physical limitations.

         3. Whether the ALJ properly assessed Plaintiff's mental limitations.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the Commissioner's decision to determine whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence and whether the proper legal standards were applied. See Treichler v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 775 F.3d 1090, 1098 (9th Cir. 2014). Substantial evidence means “more than a mere scintilla” but less than a preponderance. See Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Lingenfelter v. Astrue, 504 F.3d 1028, 1035 (9th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401. This Court must review the record as a whole, weighing both the evidence that supports and the evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's conclusion. Lingenfelter, 504 F.3d at 1035. Where evidence is susceptible of more than one rational interpretation, the Commissioner's decision must be upheld. See Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007).

         DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff contends that the ALJ failed to consider her borderline age in reaching the step five conclusion that she ...


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