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William K. v. Saul

United States District Court, C.D. California

September 18, 2019

WILLIAM K.,[1] Plaintiff
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security,[2] Defendant.




         Plaintiff William K. (“Plaintiff”) filed a complaint seeking review of the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying his applications for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge and filed briefs addressing the disputed issues in this case. [Dkt. 19 (“Pl. Br.”), Dkt. 27 (“Def. Br.”).] The Court has taken the parties’ briefing under submission without oral argument. For the reasons set forth below, the Court affirms the decision of the ALJ and orders that judgment be entered accordingly.


         In July 2011, Plaintiff filed applications for SSI and DIB alleging disability since December 27, 2008. [Dkt. 15, Administrative Record (“AR”) 161-167.] In both applications, Plaintiff stated that he became disabled and unable to work due to a combination of physical and mental impairments. Defendant denied his applications on initial review and reconsideration, and Plaintiff was found not disabled by an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) in a December 6, 2012 decision. [AR 16-24.] After the Appeals Council denied review, Plaintiff filed a civil complaint in this Court, which remanded the case for further consideration of Plaintiff’s mental impairments at step two. [AR 783-797.]

         The ALJ held a hearing on the remanded application on June 13, 2017. [AR 700-726.] The ALJ issued a second unfavorable decision on September 14, 2017. [AR 684-696.] Plaintiff sought review of the ALJ’s second decision, which was denied. The present case before the Court followed.

         As relevant here, ALJ’s decision under review found that Plaintiff had severe impairments including major depressive disorder and diabetes mellitus. [AR 689.] The ALJ then found that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled a listed impairment. [AR 690.] Based on his impairments, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”) to perform medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) and 416.967(c) except he is limited to:

Lifting 50 pounds occasionally, and 25 pounds frequently; standing and walking for six hours in an eight hour workday; sitting for six hours in an eight hour workday; and frequently balancing, bending, climbing, crawling, crouching, kneeling, and stooping. The claimant cannot do complex work and contact with the general public should be limited to 50% of the time.

[AR 690.]

         The ALJ then determined that Plaintiff had no past relevant work, but considering his age, education, and work experience, that jobs existed in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform given his RFC.


         Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the Court reviews the Commissioner’s decision to determine if: (1) the Commissioner’s findings are supported by substantial evidence; and (2) the Commissioner used correct legal standards. See Carmickle v. Comm’r Soc. Sec. Admin., 533 F.3d 1155, 1159 (9th Cir. 2008); Brewes v. Comm’r Soc. Sec. Admin., 682 F.3d 1157, 1161 (9th Cir. 2012) (internal citation omitted). “Substantial evidence is 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.” Gutierrez v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 740 F.3d 519, 522-23 (9th Cir. 2014) (internal citations omitted).

         The Court will uphold the Commissioner’s decision when the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation. See Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1110 (9th Cir. 2012). However, the Court may review only the reasons stated by the ALJ in his 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). The Court will not reverse the Commissioner’s decision if it is based on harmless error, which exists if the error is “inconsequential to the ultimate nondisability determination, or if despite the legal error, the agency’s path may reasonably be discerned.” Brown-Hunter v. Colvin, 806 F.3d 487, 492 (9th Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). ///

         IV. ...

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