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Alicia S.E. v. Saul

United States District Court, C.D. California

November 6, 2019

ALICIA S. E., Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, [1] Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          KAREN E. SCOTT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Alicia S. E. (“Plaintiff”) applied for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), alleging disability since December 9, 2015. Administrative Record (“AR”) 241, 243.

         On February 20, 2018, an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) conducted a hearing at which Plaintiff, who was represented by an attorney, appeared and testified, as did a vocational expert (“VE”). AR 128-49, 176-80. On February 26, 2018, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. AR 105-09. The Appeals Council denied review. AR 1-4.

         The ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled at step one of the five-step sequential evaluation process, because there was no continuous 12-month period during which Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity (“SGA”). AR 108-09.

         Plaintiff, who is prosecuting this appeal pro se, filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings. (Dkt. 14.) Defendant Commissioner of Social Security (“Defendant”) opposed the motion. (Dkt. 15.) The Court conducted a hearing on September 24, 2019, at which time Plaintiff lodged additional medical evidence. (Dkt. 16.)

         II.

         ISSUE PRESENTED

         The sole issue presented is whether substantial evidence supports the ALJ's SGA-related findings at step one.

         III. LEGAL STANDARDS

         A. Standard of Review.

         Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), a district court may review the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. The ALJ's findings and decision should be upheld if they are free from legal error and are supported by substantial evidence based on the record as a whole. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Parra v. Astrue, 481 F.3d 742, 746 (9th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence means such relevant evidence as a reasonable person might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401; Lingenfelter v. Astrue, 504 F.3d 1028, 1035 (9th Cir. 2007). It is more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance. Lingenfelter, 504 F.3d at 1035 (citing Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006)). To determine whether substantial evidence supports a finding, the district court “must review the administrative record as a whole, weighing both the evidence that supports and the evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's conclusion.” Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 720 (9th Cir. 1998). “If the evidence can reasonably support either affirming or reversing, ” the reviewing court “may not substitute its judgment” for that of the Commissioner. Id. at 720-21.

         B. The Five-Step Sequential ...


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