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Manavy L. v. Saul

United States District Court, S.D. California

November 19, 2019

MANAVY L., Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          REPORT & RECOMMENDATION

          HON. KAREN S. CRAWFORD, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This Report and Recommendation is submitted to the Honorable John A. Houston, United States District Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Civil Rule 72.1(c) of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. On July 10, 2017, plaintiff Manavy L. filed a Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking judicial review of a decision by the Commissioner of Social Security denying his application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits. (Doc. No. 1.) Now pending before the Court and ready for decision are the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth herein, the Court RECOMMENDS plaintiff's motion for summary judgment be DENIED, the Commissioner's cross-motion for summary judgment be GRANTED, and Judgment be entered affirming the decision of the Commissioner and dismissing this action with prejudice.

         I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On March 21, 2014, plaintiff filed an application for a period of disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, alleging disability beginning on November 5, 2013. (Certified Administrative Record (“AR”) 138-39.) After her application was denied initially and upon reconsideration (AR 54-64, 65-76), plaintiff requested an administrative hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) (AR 91-92). An administrative hearing was held on October 8, 2015. Plaintiff appeared at the hearing with counsel, and testimony was taken from her and a vocational expert (“VE”). (AR 32-53.)

         As reflected in his December 21, 2015, hearing decision, the ALJ found plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from her alleged onset date through the date of the ALJ's decision. (AR 20-27.) The ALJ's decision became final on May 26, 2017, when the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review. (AR 1-6.) This timely civil action followed.

         II. SUMMARY OF THE ALJ'S FINDINGS

         In rendering his decision, the ALJ followed the Commissioner's five-step sequential evaluation process. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. At step one, the ALJ found plaintiff did not engage in substantial gainful activity from November 5, 2013, her alleged onset date, through the date of the ALJ's decision. (AR 22.)

         At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff had the following severe impairment: cervical radiculopathy. (Id.)

         At step three, the ALJ found plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one of the impairments listed in the Commissioner's Listing of Impairments. (AR 25.)

         Next, the ALJ determined plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b), with no more than occasional pushing and pulling with the bilateral upper extremities; no climbing of ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; no more than frequent climbing or ramps, stairs, balancing, and kneeling; and no more than occasional crawling or overhead use of the bilateral upper extremities. (AR 25.)

         At step four, the ALJ determined plaintiff was able to perform her past relevant work as a postmaster and mail supervisor and, thusly, he did not proceed to a determination as to whether plaintiff is able to perform other relevant work, at step five. (AR 27.)

         III. DISPUTED ISSUES

         The disputed issues plaintiff has raised as the grounds for reversal and remand are as follows:

         1. Whether the ALJ failed to properly evaluate the opinions of plaintiff's treating physician (Doc. No. 10, pp. 6-8[1]);

         2. Whether the ALJ failed to properly evaluate plaintiff's subjective complaints and credibility (Id., pp. 8-12);

         3. Whether the ALJ adequately developed the record in his questioning of the VE (Id., pp. 12-13);[2] and

         4. Whether the ALJ erred in finding plaintiff's RFC will allow her to perform her past relevant work (Id., pp. 13-14).

         IV. 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. DeLorme v. Sullivan, 924 F.2d 841, 846 (9th Cir. 1991). Substantial evidence means “more than a mere scintilla” but less than a preponderance. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Desrosiers v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 846 F.2d 573, 575-76 (9th Cir. 1988). 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 and consider adverse as well as supporting evidence. Green v. Heckler, 803 F.2d 528, 529-30 (9th Cir. 1986). Where evidence is susceptible of more than one rational interpretation, the Commissioner's decision must be upheld. Gallant v. Heckler, 753 F.2d 1450, 1452 (9th Cir. 1984).

         V. DISCUSSION

         A. Reversal is not warranted based on the ALJ's alleged failure to properly evaluate the opinion of Plaintiff's treating physician, Dr. Muy.

         Plaintiff contends the ALJ erred by failing to provide clear and convincing reasons for rejecting the opinion of Dr. Madineth Muy, which plaintiff contends is ...


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