United States District Court, C.D. California
JOSE LUIS V. H., Plaintiff,
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
L. STEVENSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Luis V. H. (“Plaintiff”) filed a Complaint on
December 18, 2018, seeking review of the denial of his
application for Disability Insurance benefits
(“DI”) and Supplemental Security Insurance
(“SSI”). (Dkt. No. 1.) On January 31, 2019, the
parties consented, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), to
proceed before the undersigned United States Magistrate
Judge. (Dkt. Nos. 11-13.) On September 23, 2019, the parties
filed a Joint Stipulation (“Joint Stip.”). (Dkt.
No. 21.) Plaintiff seeks an order reversing and remanding for
further administrative proceedings. (Joint Stip. at 17.) The
Commissioner requests that the ALJ's decision be
affirmed. (Id. at 18.) The Court has taken the
matter under submission without oral argument.
OF PRIOR PROCEEDINGS
October 11, 2013, Plaintiff, who was born on October 31,
1959, filed an application for DI; and on April 14, 2014, he
filed an application for SSI. (See Administrative
Record (“AR”) 293-302; Joint Stip. at 2.)
Plaintiff alleged disability commencing October 19, 2005 due
to carpal tunnel, arthritis, hernia, diabetes, HBP, low
platelet count, vertigo, lumbosacral strain, cirrhosis,
varicose veins, hearing loss, and back pain. (AR 296, 319.)
He previously worked as a material handler (DOT 929.687-030),
hand packager (DOT 920.587-018), industrial truck operator
(DOT 921.683-050), and store laborer (DOT 922.687-058). (AR
85-87.) After the Commissioner initially denied
Plaintiff's applications (AR 161-71), Plaintiff requested
a hearing (AR 173-74). Administrative Law Judge Michael B.
Richardson (the “ALJ”) held a hearing on July 20,
2017. (AR 43.) Plaintiff and a vocational expert testified.
(AR 47-91.) On August 11, 2017, the ALJ issued an unfavorable
decision. (AR 14-33.) On June 27, 2018, the Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff's request for review. (AR 6-12.)
OF ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION
found that Plaintiff met the insured status requirements
through December 31, 2010. (AR 22.) He found that Plaintiff
had not engaged in substantial gainful activity from the
alleged October 19, 2005 onset date through the date last
insured. (Id.) He determined that Plaintiff had the
following severe impairments: carpal tunnel syndrome, status
post right hand carpal tunnel release; hypertension; diabetes
mellitus; hearing loss without implant, left ear; and low
back pain syndrome with sciatica. (Id.) After
specifically considering listings 1.04, 2.10, 11.14, and the
listings found under sections 1.00, 2.00, 4.00, 9.00, and
11.00, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the severity of an impairment listed in 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, 416.926). (AR 18.) The ALJ determined Plaintiff had
the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to
perform medium work with the following limitations:
[H]e can frequently push and pull with the bilateral lower
extremities; he can frequently perform all postural
activities; he can frequently handle, finger and feel
bilaterally; he must avoid noise over moderate level and can
do no work requiring good hearing; he must avoid concentrated
exposure to extreme cold and heat, wetness, humidity, noise
and vibration; and can have no exposure to unprotected
heights and dangerous moving machinery.
(AR 26.) The ALJ found that Plaintiff could perform his past
relevant work as a store laborer. (AR 31.) Accordingly, he
determined that Plaintiff was not under a disability, as
defined in the Social Security Act, from the onset date
through the date of the ALJ's decision. (AR 32.)
Court reviews the Commissioner's decision to determine
whether it is free from legal error and supported by
substantial evidence in the record as a whole. 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g); Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th
Cir. 2007). “Substantial evidence is ‘more than a
mere scintilla but less than a preponderance; it is such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.'” Gutierrez
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 740 F.3d 519, 522-23 (9th
Cir. 2014) (citation omitted). “Even when the evidence
is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, [the
Court] must uphold the ALJ's findings if they are
supported by inferences reasonably drawn from the
record.” Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1110
(9th Cir. 2012).
this Court cannot substitute its discretion for the
Commissioner's, the Court nonetheless must review the
record as a whole, “weighing both the evidence that
supports and the evidence that detracts from the
Commissioner's conclusion.” Reddick v.
Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 720 (9th Cir. 1988). “The
ALJ is responsible for determining credibility, resolving
conflicts in medical testimony, and for resolving
ambiguities.” Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d
1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 1995). The Court will uphold the
Commissioner's decision when the evidence is susceptible
to more than one rational interpretation. Burch v.
Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005). However,
the Court may review only the reasons stated by the ALJ in
her decision “and may not affirm the ALJ on a ground
upon which he did not rely.” Orn, 495 F.3d at
630. The Court will not reverse the Commissioner's
decision if it is based on harmless error, which exists if
the error is “‘inconsequential to the ultimate
nondisability determination,' or if despite the legal
error, ‘the agency's path may reasonably be
discerned.'” Brown-Hunter v. Colvin, 806
F.3d 487, 492 (9th Cir. 2015) (citations omitted).
raises three issues: (1) whether the ALJ properly rejected
several of Plaintiff's impairments as being nonsevere;
(2) whether the ALJ properly considered the opinions of two
of Plaintiff's treating physicians; and (3) whether the
ALJ properly evaluated Plaintiff's subjective statements.
(Joint Stip. at 2.) For the reasons discussed below, the ALJ
erred in failing to consider the opinion of one of
Plaintiff's treating ...