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De Arias v. Saul

United States District Court, C.D. California

October 16, 2019

SUSANA OROPEZA DE ARIAS, obo MARCO ANTONIAS A. L., [1]Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, [2]Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER AFFIRMING DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER

          ALEXANDER F. MacKINNON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Susana Oropeza De Arias filed this action on behalf of the decedent, Marco Antonias A. L., seeking review of the Commissioner's final decision denying Plaintiff's applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. In accordance with the Court's case management order, the parties have filed memorandum briefs addressing the merits of the disputed issues. The matter is now ready for decision.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income, alleging disability since September 19, 2014. Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration. (Administrative Record [“AR”] 114-118, 124-128.) A hearing took place on May 12, 2017 before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, and a vocational expert (“VE”) testified at the hearing. (AR 37-75.)

         In a decision dated February 5, 2018, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: degenerative disc desiccation at ¶ 3-4, L4-5, and L5-S1 with mild to moderate spinal canal and bilateral neural foraminal stenosis; degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine; and right and left shoulder impingement. (AR 23.) The ALJ determined that Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (“RFC”) included the ability to perform light work with the following limitations: he is able to lift, carry push and pull 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pound frequently; sit and stand/walk six hours in an eight-hour workday with normal breaks; frequently climb ramps and stairs; occasionally climb ropes, ladders, and scaffolds; frequently balance stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; should avoid concentrated exposure to hazards and vibration; and frequently reach bilaterally in all directions. (AR 24.) Relying on the testimony of the VE, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff could perform his past relevant work. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled. (AR 30-31.)

         The Appeals Council subsequently denied Plaintiff's request for review (AR 1-8), rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.

         DISPUTED ISSUES

         1. Whether the ALJ properly considered the evidence in assessing Plaintiff's RFC.

         2. Whether the ALJ properly rejected Plaintiff's subjective complaints.

         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

         I. Medical Record

         The ALJ summarized the medical record, noting evidence of the medically determinable impairments of left knee bursitis, borderline pes cavus of the right foot, borderline hepatomegaly, hepatic steatosis with periportal sparing, and rash, but found these impairments were not severe. (AR 24, citing AR 439-440, 480, 486.)[3]

         With regard to Plaintiff's severe impairments, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had a history of degenerative changes at the lumbar spine. (AR 25.) The ALJ discussed the October 2014 MRI which revealed degenerative disc desiccation at ¶ 3-4, L4-5, and L5-SI; small central disc protrusion situated on top of a disc bulge at ¶ 4-5 with mild to moderate spinal canal and bilateral neural foraminal stenosis; disc bulge at ¶ 3-4 with mild to moderate bilateral neural foraminal stenosis; and enlarged root sleep cyst associated with right S2 nerve roots within the sacral plexus, of unclear significance. (AR 25, citing AR 367-368.)

         From January 2014 through November 2014, Plaintiff was treated by Philip A. Delgado, M.D., for chronic low back pain. Treatment consisted of prescription pain medication. (AR 26, citing AR 376-381.)

         An x-ray of Plaintiff's cervical spine taken in February 2015 showed narrowing of C6-7. (AR 372.) An x-ray of Plaintiff's bilateral shoulders taken the same date was unremarkable. (AR 373.)

         A June 2015 follow-up examination with Dr. Delgado revealed increased pain in bilateral shoulders. Plaintiff's gait and stance were normal. No other positive findings were noted. Plaintiff was diagnosed with arthralgia of the right and left shoulder region, intervertebral cervical disc disorder, herniated disc at ¶ 3-4 and L4-5, cervical neuritis. (AR 374-375.)

         Dr. Delgado completed a General Medical Evaluation in September 2015. He indicated that Plaintiff exhibited decreased musculoskeletal range of motion and a careful gait, but no ...


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