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Daryl J. B. v. Saul

United States District Court, C.D. California

December 31, 2019

Daryl J. B., [1]Plaintiff,
v.
Andrew Saul, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ROZELLA A. OLIVER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Daryl J. B. (“Plaintiff”) challenges the Commissioner's denial of his application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and supplemental security income (“SSI”). For the reasons stated below, the decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED.

         II. PROCEEDINGS BELOW

         On August 11, 2016, Plaintiff applied for DIB alleging disability beginning December 24, 2015. (Administrative Record (“AR”) 97-98, 115-117.) The Social Security Administration denied the application on March 21, 2017. (AR 115.) Plaintiff also protectively applied for supplemental security income on May 25, 2017. (AR 155.) This application was also denied. (AR 155.) Both the DIB and SSI applications were denied upon reconsideration on July 6, 2017. (AR 114, 133, 152, 155.) Plaintiff filed a written request for a hearing, and a hearing was held on May 21, 2018. (AR 50, 156.) Represented by counsel, Plaintiff appeared and testified, along with an impartial vocational expert. (AR 55-86.) Plaintiff's mother also testified at the hearing. (AR 86-95.)

         On July 10, 2018, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled pursuant to the Social Security Act, from the alleged onset date through the date of decision. (AR 32.) The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's initial request for review on August 29, 2018. (AR 15-17.) The Appeals Council set aside this denial after Plaintiff submitted additional information, but again denied Plaintiff's request for review. (AR 8-10.) Plaintiff filed this action on February 8, 2019. (Dkt. No. 1.)

         The ALJ followed the familiar five-step sequential evaluation process to assess whether Plaintiff was disabled under the Social Security Act. Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 828 n.5 (9th Cir. 1995). At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since December 24, 2015, the alleged onset date (“AOD”). (AR 31.) At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: uncontrolled diabetes mellitus with kidney complications and peripheral neuropathy; arthropathy of cervical spine; degenerative disc disease of lumbar spine; history of metastatic neoplastic disease with testicular cancer metastatic to lymph nodes; carpal tunnel, right hand; and obesity. (AR 31.) At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff “does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.” (AR 32.)

         Before proceeding to step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to:

[P]erform sedentary work . . . except [Plaintiff] can lift, carry, push and pull up to 10 pounds occasionally, less than 10 pounds frequently; sit up to six hours in an eight hour workday; stand and/or walk up to two hours in an eight hour workday; frequently push and pull with bilateral upper and lower extremities; occasionally climb ramps and stairs; no climbing ladders, ropes or scaffolds; occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl; occasionally walk on uneven terrain; frequently reach with bilateral upper extremities; frequently handle and finger with bilateral hands; and occasionally operate foot controls with bilateral lower extremities. [Plaintiff] needs to avoid even moderate exposure to hazards (i.e. walking on uneven terrain, working with heights).

(AR 32-33.)

         At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was unable to perform past relevant work as a radio station program director. (AR 37-38.) At step five, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is capable of making a successful adjustment to other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy and thus determined that Plaintiff has not been under a disability from the AOD through the date of decision. (AR 38-39.)

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), a district court may review the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. A court must affirm an ALJ's findings of fact if they are supported by substantial evidence and if the proper legal standards were applied. Mayes v. Massanari, 276 F.3d 453, 458-59 (9th Cir. 2001). “‘Substantial evidence' means more than a mere scintilla, but less than a preponderance; it is such relevant evidence as a reasonable person might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Lingenfelter v. Astrue, 504 F.3d 1028, 1035 (9th Cir. 2007) (citing Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006)). An ALJ can satisfy the substantial evidence requirement “by setting out a detailed and thorough summary of the facts and conflicting clinical evidence, stating his interpretation thereof, and making findings.” Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 725 (9th Cir. 1998) (citation omitted).

         “[T]he Commissioner's decision cannot be affirmed simply by isolating a specific quantum of supporting evidence. Rather, a court must consider the record as a whole, weighing both evidence that supports and evidence that detracts from the Secretary's conclusion.” Aukland v. Massanari, 257 F.3d 1033, 1035 (9th Cir. 2001) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). “‘Where evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation,' the ALJ's decision should be upheld.” Ryan v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 528 F.3d 1194, 1198 (9th Cir. 2008) (citing Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005)); see Robbins, 466 F.3d at 882 (“If the evidence can support either affirming or reversing the ALJ's conclusion, we may not substitute our judgment for that of the ALJ.”). The Court may review only “the reasons provided by the ALJ in the disability determination and may not affirm the ALJ on a ground upon which he did not rely.” Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007) (citing Connett v. Barnhart, 340 F.3d 871, 874 (9th Cir. 2003)).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff raises the following issues for review: (1) whether the ALJ properly considered the relevant medical evidence of record in assessing Plaintiff's RFC; and (2) whether the ALJ properly considered Plaintiff's subjective statements, along with his mother's, in assessing Plaintiff's RFC. (See Joint Submission (“JS”) 4.) For the reasons below, the Court affirms.

         A. The ALJ's Credibility Determination Is Supported By Substantial Evidence[2]

         Plaintiff argues that the ALJ failed to provide legally sufficient reasons for rejecting his subjective testimony. (See JS 12-15.) ...


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