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Cynthia L. R. v. Saul

United States District Court, C.D. California

December 11, 2019

CYNTHIA L. R., [1] Plaintiff,
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, [2] Defendant.



         Plaintiff filed this action seeking review of the Commissioner's final decision denying her application for supplemental security income. 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.


         In April 2015, Plaintiff applied for supplemental security income, alleging disability since September 12, 2012. Plaintiff's application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. (Administrative Record [“AR”] 117-131, 133-146.) A hearing took place on October 17, 2017 before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, and a vocational expert (“VE”) testified at the hearing. (AR 66-98.)

         In a decision dated March 12, 2018, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: status post fractured left elbow; degenerative joint disease of the left elbow; left shoulder impingement syndrome; obesity; left trapezius and rhomboid strain; hypertension; bipolar disorder; depression; and anxiety. (AR 19-20.) The ALJ determined that Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (“RFC”) included the ability to perform a range of medium work as follows: Plaintiff can lift up to 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently; can sit for six hours in an eight-hour workday; can stand and/or walk for six hours in an eight-hour workday; can frequently handle, finger, and overhead reach with the non-dominant left upper extremity; cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; can frequently climb ramps and stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; can frequently work around hazards; can occasionally work around dusts, fumes, gases, and poor ventilation; is limited to unskilled work of reasoning level one or two; and is limited to occasional contact with the public or co-workers. (AR 22.) Relying on the testimony of the VE, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff could perform jobs existing in significant No. in the national economy. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled. (AR 27-28.)

         The Appeals Council subsequently denied Plaintiff's request for review (AR 1-6), rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.


         Plaintiff, who is proceeding pro per, has not presented any disputed issue with specificity sufficient for the Court to discern. Although Plaintiff makes a conclusory assertion that “Social Secuirt[y]'s own guidelines have not been followed, ” (ECF No. 19 at 1), she does not state which “guideline” has been ignored, nor does she identify any finding by the ALJ that she contends was made in violation of a guideline. Instead, Plaintiff makes the following assertions in support of her complaint: “Substantial medical and psychological records” prove that she has a combination of limitations “severe enough to prohibit employment”; she “refutes” the findings of Dr. Altman because his examination was inadequate; subsequent to the hearing she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and bulging and herniated discs; the ALJ's determination that she can lift 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently and stand six hours in an eight-hour day are “absurd” in light of the record; and it is impossible for her to perform the jobs identified by the VE. (ECF No. 1 at 2-4.)

         The Court need not consider claims that Plaintiff fails to present with any specificity and that lack citation to evidence or legal authority. See, e.g., DeBerry v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 352 Fed.Appx. 173, 176 (9th Cir. 2009) (declining to consider claim that ALJ failed properly to apply Social Security Ruling where claimant did not argue the issue “with any specificity” in her opening brief and failed to cite “any evidence or legal authority” in support of her position); Nazarian v. Berryhill, 2018 WL 2938581, at *3-4 (C.D. Cal. June 7, 2018) (finding plaintiff “provide[d] no specific argument regarding how the ALJ in this case specifically erred in such respect, and thus fail[ed] to persuade the Court that a remand is warranted on such conclusory grounds”). Nevertheless, the Court has liberally construed Plaintiff's memorandum in support of the complaint to raise the issues discussed below.


         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. 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). 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, 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).


         I. Medical Record

         The ALJ summarized the relevant medical record. With regard to Plaintiff's mental impairments, the ALJ discussed Plaintiff's history of bipolar disorder with anxiety symptoms. (AR 23, citing AR 437.) In January 2015, Plaintiff sought treatment with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. At the time, she reported feeling nervous and tense and said that she became easily irritated and frustrated with family and friends. Plaintiff isolated herself because she did not want to get angry at friends. (AR 443, 445.) She explained that she had been doing fairly well for three years while on medication, but after suffering renal failure in June 2014, Plaintiff stopped her medication. ...

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