United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER DIRECTING ENTRY OF JUDGMENT IN FAVOR OF
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY AND AGAINST
S. AUSTIN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
David Tuupoina (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial
review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security (“Commissioner” or
“Defendant”) denying his application for
disability insurance benefits pursuant to Title II and
supplemental security income pursuant to Title XVI of the
Social Security Act. The matter is currently before the Court
on the parties' briefs which were submitted without oral
argument to the Honorable Gary S. Austin, United States
Magistrate Judge. See Docs. 19 and 26. Having
reviewed the record as a whole, the Court finds that the
ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence and
applicable law. Accordingly, Plaintiff's appeal is
December 22, 2009, Plaintiff filed applications for
disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
income alleging disability beginning October 1, 2009. AR 126.
Following initial review, reconsideration and an agency
hearing, the Commissioner denied the applications on October
11, 2012. AR 126. The Appeals Council denied review on
November 21, 2013. AR 126.
January 27, 2014, Plaintiff again filed applications for
disability insurance benefitsand supplemental security income
alleging disability beginning October 1, 2009. AR 33. The
Commissioner denied the application initially on July 15,
2014, and following reconsideration on November 19, 2014. AR
December 22, 2014, Plaintiff filed a request for a hearing.
AR 33. Administrative Law Judge Nancy Stewart presided over
an administrative hearing on September 26, 2016. AR 86-105.
Plaintiff appeared and was represented by an attorney. AR 86.
On December 8, 2016, the ALJ denied Plaintiff's
application. AR 33-40.
Appeals Council denied review on February 13, 2018. AR 7-13.
On September 25, 2018, 2018, Plaintiff filed a complaint in
this Court. Doc. 1.
(born May 18, 1964) completed the twelfth grade. AR 90. He
had previously worked as a security bouncer at a nightclub,
where he was paid “under the table.” AR 92-93.
During the day, Plaintiff was responsible for accepting
liquor deliveries and moving stage and dance floor equipment
according to the night's planned entertainment. AR 94-95.
was using marijuana to relieve his pain even though his
doctor had declined to give Plaintiff a medical marijuana
card. AR 96-97. He was able to lift fifty pounds comfortably,
much less than he had to lift on his last job. AR 97. In the
mornings he walked his daughters one mile to school, then
rested outside the office before walking home. AR 98. When he
experienced pain while standing, as when he did the dishes,
Plaintiff took a break. AR 98. He was most comfortable
sitting or lying on the floor. AR 99. When his pain was
severe, Plaintiff smoked marijuana and lay down. AR 100.
administrative record includes limited medical records. At
the administrative hearing Plaintiff's attorney confirmed
that the record was complete and that Plaintiff had not seen
his primary care physician “in quite some time.”
December 28, 2013, Plaintiff was treated in the emergency
department of Memorial Hospital Los Banos (MHLB) for an itchy
rash diagnosed as ringworm. AR 365. Emergency room personnel
also prescribed blood pressure medication because
Plaintiff's blood pressure was high (199/110). AR 365-68.
Plaintiff returned to MHLB on January 31, 2014, with a
pruritic erythematous rash. AR 372-78.
23, 2014, Plaintiff was treated in the emergency department
following a fall in his bathtub. AR 381-83. Medical personnel
diagnosed strain of the abductor muscles of the right leg and
right paralumbar muscles and prescribed valium and Norco. AR
382-83. On June 25, 2014, Anna Vaz, NP, treated Plaintiff for
muscle spasm at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. AR 392.
Ms. Vaz prescribed Flexeril. AR 392.
emergency department of Emanuel Medical Center on February
14, 2016, Brad Ramsey, D.O., treated Plaintiff for acute
lumbar radiculopathy. AR 401. Dr. Ramsey prescribed Baclofen
and Naproxen and directed Plaintiff to follow up with his
primary care physician. AR 401.
February 26, 2015, Plaintiff was treated for rectal bleeding
in the gastroenterology department of Santa Clara Valley
Medical Center. AR 403-08. In the course of a colonoscopy on
June 3, 2015, Nimeesh Shah, M.D., removed three polyps from
Plaintiff's colon. AR 409-10. In July 2015, doctors
reported that the polyps were invasive carcinoma but that
there was no evidence of metastases. AR 414.
2016, Peter Park, M.D., diagnosed a ganglion cyst in
Plaintiff's right wrist and prescribed Naproxen. AR 426.
Standard of Review
to 42 U.S.C. §405(g), this court has the authority to
review a decision by the Commissioner denying a claimant
disability benefits. “This court may set aside the
Commissioner's denial of disability insurance benefits
when the ALJ's findings are based on legal error or are
not supported by substantial evidence in the record as a
whole.” Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1097
(9th Cir. 1999) (citations omitted). Substantial
evidence is evidence within the record that could lead a
reasonable mind to accept a conclusion regarding disability
status. See Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401
(1971). It is more than a scintilla, but less than a
preponderance. See Saelee v. Chater, 94 F.3d 520,
522 (9th Cir. 1996) (internal citation omitted).
When performing this analysis, the court must “consider
the entire record as a whole and may not affirm simply by
isolating a specific quantum of supporting evidence.”
Robbins v. Social Security Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882
(9th Cir. 2006) (citations and internal quotation
evidence reasonably could support two conclusions, the court
“may not substitute its judgment for that of the
Commissioner” and must affirm the decision.
Jamerson v. Chater, 112 F.3d 1064, 1066
(9th Cir. 1997) (citation omitted). “[T]he
court will not reverse an ALJ's decision for harmless
error, which exists when it is clear from the record that the
ALJ's error was inconsequential to the ultimate
nondisability determination.” Tommasetti v.
Astrue, 533 F.3d 1035, 1038 (9th Cir. 2008)
(citations and internal quotation marks omitted).
The Disability Standard
qualify for benefits under the Social Security Act, a
plaintiff must establish that he or she is unable to engage
in substantial gainful activity due to a medically
determinable physical or mental impairment that has lasted or
can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less
than twelve months. 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). An
individual shall be considered to have a disability only if .
. . his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of
such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous
work, but cannot, considering his age, education, and work
experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful
work which exists in the national economy, ...