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Buyck v. Saul

United States District Court, E.D. California

September 10, 2019

ROSALIE RUTH BUYCK, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER

          CAROLYN K. DELANEY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff 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 deny plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and grant the Commissioner's cross-motion for summary judgment.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, born in 1958, applied on September 16, 2015 for Title II disability insurance benefits, alleging disability beginning January 8, 2015. Administrative Transcript (“AT”) 21, 30. Plaintiff alleged she was unable to work due to memory problems and the inability to find words when speaking. AT 116. In a decision dated the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled.[1]AT 21-31. The ALJ made the following findings (citations to 20 C.F.R. omitted):

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2019.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 8, 2015, the alleged onset date.
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: borderline intellectual functioning, anxiety disorder, depressive disorder, personality disorder, and obesity.
4. 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.
5. 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 is precluded from climbing ladders, ropes, and scaffolds, and from working around hazards, including dangerous moving machinery and unprotected heights. She must avoid concentrated exposure to pulmonary irritants, including fumes, dust, gases, odors, and poorly ventilated areas. She is limited to performing simple, routine, and repetitive tasks. She is limited to no more than occasional interaction with supervisors, coworkers, and the public. She is precluded from work at a production pace, such as sustained fast-paced activity or work with requirements for meeting explicit quotas, deadlines, or schedules, but work at a normal production pace is not ruled out.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work.
7. The claimant was born on XX/XX/1958, which is defined as an individual of advanced age, on the alleged disability onset date.
8. The claimant has at least a high-school education and is able to communicate in English.
9. Transferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability because using the Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding that the claimant is ‘not disabled,' whether or not the claimant has transferable job skills.
10. 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.
11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from January 8, 2015 through the date of this decision.

AT 23-31.

         ISSUES PRESENTED

         Plaintiff argues that the ALJ committed the following errors in finding plaintiff not disabled: (1) the ALJ improperly weighed the medical opinion evidence; and (2) the ALJ erred in discounting plaintiff's subjective statements.

         LEGAL STANDARDS

         The 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).

         The 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, ...


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