United States District Court, C.D. California
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
J. STANDISH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Consuelo F. (“Plaintiff”) filed a complaint
seeking review of the decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security denying her application for Supplemental Security
Income (“SSI”). The parties filed consents to
proceed before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge
[Dkts. 11 and 12] and briefs [Dkt. 18 (“Pl.
Br.”), Dkt. 19 (“Def. Br.”)] addressing
disputed issues in the case. Plaintiff also filed a Statement
of No. Reply. [Dkt. 20.] The matter is now ready for
decision. For the reasons discussed below, the Court finds
that this matter should be affirmed.
ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION UNDER REVIEW
originally filed an application for SSI on June 6, 2012 [AR
97]. An Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found
Plaintiff not disabled in a written decision dated September
9, 2014. [AR 97-111.] Plaintiff did not appeal that decision,
but instead filed a new application for SSI on November 19,
2014, this time alleging that she became disabled on
September 10, 2014, the day after the original decision was
filed. After the Commissioner denied her second application
initially and upon reconsideration, Plaintiff had two
hearings before a second ALJ. In a decision dated November
15, 2017, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled. [AR 145-49,
154-59, 26-36, 37-56, 12-21.] The Appeals Council denied
review. The present action followed.
November 2017 decision under review, the ALJ first set forth
in some detail the decision of the prior ALJ finding
Plaintiff to be not disabled on September 9, 2014. The Court
will address relevant portions of this earlier decision where
then applied the five-step sequential evaluation process for
assessing disability based on the later-filed application.
[AR 15-23.] See 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4). At step one, the ALJ found
Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since November 19, 2014 (the application date). [AR 15.] At
step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff suffered from the
severe impairments of lumbar spine degenerative disc disease
and strain, obesity, and diabetes. [AR 15, citing 20 C.F.R.
416.920(c).] The ALJ determined at step three that Plaintiff
did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that
meets or medically equals the severity of one of the
impairments listed in Appendix I of the Regulations. [AR 17.]
See 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1. Next, at
step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform the full
range of light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §
416.967(b)). [AR 17.] At step five, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff was not able to perform any of her past relevant
work, which included work as a cooks helper (Dictionary of
Occupational Titles No. 317.687-010), an unskilled occupation
(SVP-2) requiring medium work both as performed by the
claimant and as generally performed. [AR 20.] The ALJ then
determined that Plaintiff was a person closely approaching
advanced age on the date the application was filed (20 C.F.R.
416.963), has a marginal education, and is able to
communicate in English (20 C.F.R. 416.964). [AR 20.]
on the above assessment, the ALJ determined that
transferability of skills was not an issue in this case
because Plaintiff's past relevant work was unskilled. [AR
21.] And, considering Plaintiff's age, education, work
experience, and RFC, that there are jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff
can perform. [AR 21.] Based on an RFC for the full range of
light work, the ALJ determined that a finding of “not
disabled” was directed by Medical-Vocational Rule
202.10. [AR 21.]
claims the ALJ committed legal error in two regards. First,
Plaintiff claims that the ALJ erred in finding that she is
able to communicate in English, and more specifically, that
she is “literate.” [Pl. Br. at 3, 5-10.] Second,
Plaintiff contends the ALJ failed to articulate legally
sufficient reasons for rejecting Plaintiff's statements
and testimony regarding her level of pain and limitations.
[Pl. Br. at 3, 10-14.] Plaintiff requests reversal and remand
for further administrative proceedings. [Pl. Br. at 14.]
Defendant asserts that the ALJ's decision should be
affirmed. [Def. Br. at 8.]
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).
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).
The Principles Of R ...