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Sean M. G. v. Saul

United States District Court, C.D. California

October 30, 2019

SEAN M. G.,[1] Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING DECISION OF COMMISSIONER

          ALEXANDER F. MacKINNON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff, Sean M. G., filed this action seeking review of the Commissioner's final decision denying his application for disability insurance benefits. 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 in April 2015, alleging that he became disabled on May 4, 2013. Plaintiff's application was denied. (Administrative Record [“AR”] 91-96, 154-157.) On August 9, 2017, a hearing took place before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, and a vocational expert (“VE”) both testified. (AR 32-59.)

         In a decision dated November 17, 2017, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine; left rotator cuff injury; status-post right shoulder surgery in June 2012; status-post left knee surgery; and diabetes. (AR 22.) The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform sedentary work with the following exceptions: He needed a cane to walk; could perform postural activities no more than frequently; could reach overhead bilaterally only occasionally and may need to bend his right arm while reaching; and needed to take one to two-minute breaks every hour. (AR 24.) Relying upon the testimony of the VE, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was able to perform his past relevant work. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled. (AR 27-28.)

         The Appeals Council subsequently denied Plaintiff's request for review (AR 1-6), rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.

         DISPUTED ISSUES

1. Whether the ALJ's assessment of Plaintiff's RFC is supported by substantial evidence or whether she was obligated to develop the record.
2. Whether the ALJ properly evaluated the credibility of 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

         Plaintiff contends that the ALJ erred in assessing his RFC by basing her RFC on a medical opinion pre-dating his August 2016 injury and on her own interpretation of raw medical data post-dating that injury. According to Plaintiff, the ALJ was required to develop the record by obtaining a medical opinion based upon Plaintiff's impairments after the August 2016 injury. (ECF No. 20 at 2-11.)

         A. ...


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