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Candice C. v. Saul

United States District Court, C.D. California

November 8, 2019

CANDICE C., [1] Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER

          ALEXANDER F. MACKINNON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff filed this action seeking review of the Commissioner's final decision denying her application for Social Security Child 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.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On February 9, 2015, Plaintiff applied for Supplemental Security Income. (Administrative Record (“AR”) 243-251.) On August 28, 2015, Plaintiff applied for Social Security Child Insurance Benefits, alleging disability since January 1, 1990. (AR 252-255.) After an initial denial of the applications on July 8, 2015, Plaintiff filed a written request for hearing on September 3, 2015. (AR 125-129, 134-136). Only Plaintiff's sister was able to testify on the date initially set for the hearing (August 17, 2017) because Plaintiff needed time to find new representation. On December 14, 2017, Plaintiff and her new attorney appeared before the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (AR 38-77.) This hearing also included the testimony of a vocational expert (“VE”) and a medical expert (“ME”).

         The ALJ issued a partially favorable decision. (AR 12-37.) The ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: mild degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and borderline intellectual functioning. (AR 20). These impairments rendered Plaintiff disabled beginning March 1, 2017, thereby qualifying Plaintiff for supplemental security income. However, because Plaintiff had attained the age of 22 prior to the determined onset date, she was not entitled to child insurance benefits. The Appeals Council subsequently denied review, rendering the ALJ's decision final. (AR 1-6).

         II. DISPUTED ISSUES

         1. Whether the ALJ properly discounted Plaintiff's subjective symptom testimony.

         2. Whether the ALJ erred in determining that prior to March 1, 2017, Plaintiff could perform jobs existing in significant No. in the national economy.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the 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). The Court reviews 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); Batson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1196 (9th Cir. 2004) (“When evidence reasonably supports either confirming or reversing the ALJ's decision, [the court] may not substitute [its] judgment for that of the ALJ.”).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff does not dispute the ALJ's summary of her testimony and her alleged impairments as described below:

She did not have a walker at this hearing. She stated that she was not working and had never worked. She asserted that she had never looked for work due to being uncomfortable around others. She alleged that she had never used alcohol or drugs, other than those medically prescribed. She stated that she was 34 years of age and had completed the twelfth grade. She stated that she had been involved in special education throughout her schooling and had an individualized education program, involving resource specialist program (RSP) and speech therapy. She stated that she was able to read a children's book and write at a similar level. She reported that after graduating high school, she lived with her father and spent most of her time in her room watching television. The claimant stated that she lived alone, but her sister visited her on a daily basis to assist her with many basic activities of daily living. She stated that she had a dog at her home, but her sister cleaned after the dog. She alleged that she would lose focus after watching television for 5 minutes. She asserted that she had difficulty getting ready in the morning and needed frequent reminders from her sister in regard to activities of daily living.
The claimant alleged that she was depressed and anxious. She reported having focus and concentration deficits, paranoia, and difficult learning. She alleged that she gave her best effort at the consultative examinations. She indicated having had depressive and anxiety symptoms since childhood, approximately since age 12. She asserted that she had previously received psychological treatment, but she did not remember her last visit. She reported taking Prozac, Xanax, and an unspecified sleep medication. She alleged taking Xanax on an as needed basis, taking it once per day due to panic attacks. She also reported taking pain medications for back and knee pain. The claimant reported having six children, ages ranging from 2 to 14. She alleged that she lost custody of her children due to her mental health issues. She stated that four of her children lived with their father and two of the children lived with their grandmother. She reported having visitation rights to her children ...

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