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Alfredo G. v. Saul

United States District Court, S.D. California

December 5, 2019

JOSE ALFREDO G., Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, [1] Defendant.

          ORDER AFFIRMING DECISION OF SOCIAL SECURITY COMMISSIONER [DOCS. 18, 19, 20.]

          HON. RUTH BERMUDEZ MONTENEGRO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Jose Alfredo G. ("Plaintiff) filed a Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c) seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Defendant" or "Commissioner") denying Plaintiffs application for Child Disability Benefits and Supplemental Security Income under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (the "Act"). (Doc. 1.) Before the Court are: Plaintiffs Merits Briefing, seeking remand to the Social Security Administration ("SSA") for further proceedings (Doc. 18); Defendant's Opposition to Plaintiffs Merits Briefing (Doc. 19); and Plaintiffs Reply in Support of Merits Briefing (Doc. 20).

         The parties consented to Magistrate Judge jurisdiction. (See Gen. Or. 707; Doc. 11.)

         After a thorough review of the papers on file, the Administrative Record ("AR"), the facts, and the applicable law, the Court finds that the Administrative Law Judge's ("ALJ") decision is supported by substantial evidence and is free from legal error. Accordingly, the decision of the ALJ is AFFIRMED.

         II. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On April 30, 2015, Plaintiff filed an application for Child Disability Benefits and Supplemental Security Income under Titles II and XVI of the Act, alleging disability beginning on May 6, 2014. (AR, at 211-219[2].) After Plaintiffs claim was denied initially on October 1, 2015 (AR, at 101-102) and upon reconsideration on December 22, 2015, (AR, at 125-126), Plaintiff requested a hearing before an ALJ (AR, at 140-141), which was held on December 27, 2017 (AR, at 39-78). Plaintiff appeared and was represented by counsel, and testimony was taken from Plaintiff, Plaintiffs mother, and Mark Remas, a vocational expert ("VE"). (AR, at 39-78.)

         On March 2, 2018, the ALJ issued a written decision in which he determined that Plaintiff was not disabled as defined in the Act. (AR, at 20-38.) On May 3, 2018, Plaintiff sought review of the decision by the Appeals Council. (AR, at 208-210.) On March 8, 2019, the Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's ruling, and the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(h). (AR, at 1-8.)

         III. ALJ'S FINDINGS

         In his written decision, the ALJ initially determined Plaintiff had not attained the age of twenty-two as of the alleged onset date for the payment of Child Disability Benefits, as required by the Act. 20 C.F.R. § 404.350(a)(5). The ALJ then followed the five-step sequential evaluation process to determine whether Plaintiff is disabled. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a).

         At step one, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since May 6, 2014, the alleged onset of disability. (AR, at 28.)

         At step two, the ALJ found Plaintiff suffers from the following severe impairments: autism spectrum disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, learning disorder, and anxiety disorder. (AR, at 29.)

         At step three, the ALJ found Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Id.)

         Next, the ALJ determined Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels, subject to the following non-exertional limitations: Plaintiff is limited to "understanding, remembering, and carrying out simple, routine, repetitive tasks, with standard industry work breaks every two hours[;]" Plaintiff can only have "non-personal, non-social interaction[s] with co-workers and supervisors, involving no more than a brief exchange of information or hand off of work-product[;]" and Plaintiff is "unable to work as part of a team." (AR, at 30.)

         At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has no past relevant work. (AR, at 32.)

         At step five, considering Plaintiffs age, education, work experience, RFC, and VE testimony, the ALJ found there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform. (AR, at 33.) The ALJ identified the representative positions of: Cleaner II, Specific Vocational Preparation ("SVP") 1, with approximately 100, 000 jobs existing in the national economy (Dictionary of Occupational Titles ("DOT") 919.687-014); Hand packager, SVP 2, with approximately 150, 000 jobs existing in the national economy (DOT 920.587-018); and Folder, SVP 2, with approximately 60, 000 jobs existing in the national economy (DOT 369.687-018). (AR, at 33.)

         Accordingly, the ALJ found Plaintiff "had not been under a disability, as defined in the [Act], from May 6, 2014, through the ...


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