United States District Court, S.D. California
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON MOTION AND CROSS MOTION
FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [ECF NOS. 21, 22]
Mitchell D. Dembin United States Magistrate Judge
Report and Recommendation is submitted to United States Judge
Anthony J. Battaglia 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.
Laura C. (“Plaintiff”) filed this action pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of the final
administrative decision of the Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration (“Commissioner”). (ECF
No. 21 at 2). The final administrative decision of the
Commissioner denied Plaintiff's application for
Disability Insurance Benefits under Title II of the Social
Security Act (“Title II”) and for Supplemental
Security Income under Title XVI of the Social Security Act
(“Title XVI”). (AR 115).
reasons set forth herein, the Court recommends
Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment is
GRANTED IN PART and Defendant's
Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED.
Specifically, this Court RECOMMENDS that
Plaintiff's request that the case be
REMANDED for further proceedings is
was born in 1957. (AR 246). At the time the instant
application was filed on February 26, 2014, Plaintiff was 56
years-old which categorized her as a person of advanced age.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1563, 416.963.
February 26, 2014, Plaintiff protectively filed an
application for a period of Disability Insurance Benefits
under Title II. (AR 105). On January 3, 2017, Plaintiff filed
an application for a period of Supplementary Security Income
under Title XVI. (Id.). Both applications alleged a
disability beginning February 12, 2014. (Id.). After
her application was denied initially and upon
reconsideration, Plaintiff requested an administrative
hearing before an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”). (Id.). An administrative
hearing was held on January 18, 2017. (Id.).
Plaintiff appeared and was represented by attorney Holly
McMahon. (Id.). Testimony was taken from Plaintiff,
impartial medical expert John R. Morse, M.D., and impartial
vocational expert Gloria J. Lasoff. (Id.). On March
21, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff was not
disabled from February 12, 2014 through the date of the
decision and therefore denied Plaintiff's claim for
benefits. (AR 115).
8, 2017, Plaintiff sought review with the Appeals Council.
(AR 354). On March 20, 2018, the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review and declared the ALJ's
decision to be the Commissioner's final decision in
Plaintiff's case. (AR 1). This timely civil action
405(g) and 1383(c)(3) of the Social Security Act allow
unsuccessful applicants to seek judicial review of a final
agency decision of the Commissioner. 42 U.S.C. §§
405(g), 1383(c)(3). The scope of judicial review is limited
in that a denial of benefits will not be disturbed if it is
supported by substantial evidence and contains no legal
error. Id.; see also Batson v. Comm'r of the
SSA, 359 F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004).
evidence means “more than a mere scintilla but less
than a preponderance.” Sandgathe v. Chater,
108 F.3d 978, 980 (9th Cir. 1997). “[I]t is such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Id.
(quoting Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th
Cir. 1995)). The court must consider the record as a whole,
weighing both the evidence that supports and detracts from
the Commissioner's conclusions. Desrosiers v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 846 F.2d 573,
576 (9th Cir. 1988). If the evidence supports more than one
rational interpretation, the court must uphold the ALJ's
decision. Batson, 359 F.3d at 1193. When the
evidence is inconclusive, “questions of credibility and
resolution of conflicts in the testimony are functions solely
of the Secretary.” Sample v. Schweiker, 694
F.2d 639, 642 (9th Cir. 1982) (quoting Waters v.
Gardner, 452 F.2d 855, 858 n.7 (9th Cir. 1971)).
a reviewing court finds that substantial evidence supports
the ALJ's conclusion, the court must set aside the
decision if the ALJ failed to apply the proper legal
standards in weighing the evidence and reaching his or her
decision. Batson, 359 F.3d at 1193. Section 405(g)
permits a court to enter a judgment affirming, modifying, or
reversing the Commissioner's decision. 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). The reviewing court may also remand the matter to the
Social Security Administration for further proceedings.
Summary of the ALJ's Findings
rendering his decision, the ALJ followed the
Commissioner's five step sequential evaluation process.
See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. At step one, the ALJ
found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful
employment since February 12, 2014. (AR 107).
two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, and
deep vein thrombosis. (Id.).
three, the ALJ found that 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 109) (citing
20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R.
404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 and
after considering the entire record, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff had the “residual functional capacity to
perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(b) and
416.967(b), ” and announced the following residual
functional capacity (“RFC”):
Perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(b) and
416.967(b) except the [Plaintiff] is limited to frequent
climbing stairs and ramps, occasional climbing
ladders/ropes/scaffolding, and frequent stooping, kneeling,
crouching, and crawling; avoid concentrated exposure to
hazards such as moving machinery and working at unprotected
heights; and avoid concentrated exposure to extreme
temperature and vibration. (AR 110).
said that this RFC assessment was “consistent with the
objective medical evidence and other evidence. . . .”
(Id.). The ALJ stated he considered the opinion
evidence in accordance with the requirements of 20 C.F.R.
404.1527 and 416.927. (Id.).
then proceeded to step five of the sequential evaluation
process. He found Plaintiff was able to perform her past
relevant work. (AR 115). For the purposes of his step five
evaluation, the ALJ accepted the testimony of the vocational
expert (“VE”). (Id.). The VE testified
that Plaintiff's past relevant work ...