United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER ON CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT RE: DKT.
NOS. 20, 21
VAN KEULEN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Gilbert Alberto Trujillo, Jr. (“Plaintiff”)
appeals from the final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security denying his application for disability insurance
benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act. For the
reasons discussed below, the Court REMANDS
this matter for further administrative proceedings.
seeks disability benefits for the period beginning January 2,
2009 and ending December 31, 2009. Dkt. 17 (Administrative
Record (“AR”)) 17, 171. An
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) held a hearing
on August 24, 2017, at which Plaintiff, a vocational expert,
and a medical expert testified. AR 28-78. On October 25,
2017, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. AR 12-23. The
ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: diabetes mellitus, hypertension, stasis
dermatitis of the right leg, neuropathy, status post left
great toe amputation, and obesity. AR 17. The ALJ concluded
that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equaled one of the listed
impairments. AR 18. The ALJ then determined that Plaintiff
had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to
perform light work with the limitation that he could only
stand and walk for four hours total in a work day. AR 18. The
ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled because he was
capable of performing jobs that exist in the national
economy, including those of a cashier, an assembler of
electrical accessories, and an arcade attendant. AR 21-22.
the Appeals Council denied review, Plaintiff sought review in
this Court. Dkt. 1. In accordance with Civil Local Rule 16-5,
the Parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. Dkt. 20
(“Pl. MSJ”); Dkt. 21 (“Def. MSJ”).
All Parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a
magistrate judge. Dkts. 10, 15.
ISSUES FOR REVIEW
1. Did the ALJ err is assigning “little weight”
to the opinions of Plaintiff's treating physicians, Dr.
Tomas Valdez and Dr. Jan Lin?
2. Did the ALJ err in her credibility analysis of Plaintiff?
3. Did the ALJ err in determining that Plaintiff could
perform the jobs of cashier, assembler of electrical
accessories, or arcade attendant?
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court has the authority to review the Commissioner's
decision to deny disability benefits, but “a federal
court's review of Social Security determinations is quite
limited.” Brown-Hunter v. Colvin, 806 F.3d
487, 492 (9th Cir. 2015); see also 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). Federal courts “leave it to the ALJ to
determine credibility, resolve conflicts in the testimony,
and resolve ambiguities in the record.”
Brown-Hunter, 806 F.3d at 492 (internal quotation
marks and citation omitted).
Commissioner's decision will be disturbed only if it is
not supported by substantial evidence or if it is based on
the application of improper legal standards. Id. at
492. “Under the substantial-evidence standard, a court
looks to an existing administrative record and asks whether
it contains sufficient evidence to support the agency's
factual determinations, ” and this threshold is
“not high.” Biestek v. Berryhill, __
U.S. __, 139 S.Ct. 1148, 1154 (2019) (internal quotation
marks, citation, and alteration omitted); see also Rounds
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 807 F.3d 996, 1002
(9th Cir. 2015) (“Substantial evidence” means
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”) (internal
quotation marks and citations omitted). The Court “must
consider the evidence as a whole, weighing both the evidence
that supports and the evidence that detracts from the
Commissioner's conclusion.” Rounds, 807
F.3d at 1002 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
Where the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational
interpretation, the Court must uphold the ALJ's findings
if supported by inferences reasonably drawn from the record.
the ALJ commits legal error, the ALJ's decision will be
upheld if the error is harmless. Brown-Hunter, 806
F.3d at 492. But “[a] reviewing court may not make
independent findings based on the evidence before the ALJ to
conclude that the ALJ's error was harmless.”
Id. The Court is “constrained to review the
reasons the ALJ asserts.” Id. (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted).