United States District Court, D. Nevada
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF U.S. MAGISTRATE
Report and Recommendation is made to the Honorable Miranda M.
Du, United States District Judge. The action was referred to
the undersigned Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(B) and LR IB 1-4. Before the court is plaintiffs
motion for reversal and/or remand (ECF No. 13),
defendant's cross-motion to affirm (ECF No. 16), and
plaintiffs reply (ECF No. 17). For the reasons set forth
herein, the court recommends that plaintiffs motion be
denied, and defendant's cross-motion be granted.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
6, 2013, Jose Munguia Mendez ("plaintiff) protectively
filed for a period of disability, Disability Insurance
Benefits ("DIB"), and Supplemental Security Income
("SSI") benefits under Titles II and XVI of the
Social Security Act, alleging a disability onset date of June
30, 2012. (Administrative Record ("AR") 265-271,
272-278.) The Social Security Administration denied
plaintiffs application in the first instance on December 17,
2013, and upon reconsideration on March 31, 2014.
(Id. at 149-152, 156-158.)
September 15, 2015, plaintiff and his attorney appeared at a
hearing before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ")
Janice Shave. (Id. at 53-84.) The ALJ issued a
written decision on November 17, 2015, finding that plaintiff
had not been disabled at any time between the alleged onset
date and the date of the decision. (Id. at 30-51.)
Plaintiff appealed, and the Appeals Council denied review on
June 29, 2016. (Id. at 1-7.) Accordingly, the
ALJ's decision became the final decision of the
exhausted all administrative remedies, plaintiff filed a
complaint for judicial review on August 30, 2016. (ECF No.
1.) In his motion for remand or reversal, plaintiff contends
that (1) the ALJ's residual functional capacity
("RFC") assessment lacked the support of
substantial evidence, and (2) the ALJ's credibility
determination lacked the support of substantial evidence.
(ECF No. 13 at 6-12.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
initial burden of proof to establish disability in a claim
for SSDI benefits rests upon the claimant. Molina v.
Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1110 (9th Cir. 2012). To satisfy
this burden, the claimant must demonstrate an "inability
to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of
any medically determinable physical or mental impairment
which can be expected ... to last for a continuous period of
not less than 12 months...." 42 U.S.C. §
court has jurisdiction to review an ALJ's decision to
deny a claim for benefits after the claimant has exhausted
all administrative remedies. See Brewes v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec. Admin., 682 F.3d 1157, 1161-62 (9th Cir.
2012). The court must affirm the ALJ's decision unless it
rests on legal error or is unsupported by substantial
evidence in the administrative record. Garrison v.
Colvin, 759 F.3d 995, 1009 (9th Cir. 2014); see
also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) ("The findings of the
Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if supported
by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive."). The
substantial evidence standard is not onerous. It 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."
Hill v. Astrue, 698 F.3d 1153, 1159 (9th Cir. 2012)
(internal quotation omitted).
the ALJ need not discuss every piece of evidence in the
record, she cannot ignore or omit evidence that is
significant or probative. Hiler v. Astrue, 687 F.3d
1208, 1212 (9th Cir. 2012). The ALJ's discussion must
adequately explain the decision in light of such evidence.
"The ALJ, not the district court, is required to provide
specific reasons for rejecting [the evidence.]"
Stout v. Comm'r, Soc. Sec. Admin., 454 F.3d
1050, 1054 (9th Cir. 2006) (specifically discussing rejection
of lay testimony). The district court's review is thus
constrained to the reasons asserted by the ALJ. Connett
v. Barnhart, 340 F.3d 871, 874 (9th Cir. 2003).
determine whether substantial evidence exists, the court must
look at the record as a whole, considering both evidence that
supports and undermines the ALJ's decision; it "may
not affirm simply by isolating a specific quantum of
supporting evidence." Robbins v. Soc. Sec.
Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006) (internal
quotation omitted). Where "the evidence is susceptible
of more than one rational interpretation, the decision of the
ALJ must be upheld." Lewis v. Astrue, 498 F.3d
909, 911 (9th Cir. 2007) (internal quotation omitted). The
ALJ alone is responsible for determining credibility and
resolving ambiguities. Garrison, 759 F.3d at 1010.
claims are evaluated under a five-step sequential process.
Commissioner follows a five-step sequential process for
determining whether a claimant is "disabled" for
the purposes of SSDI. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4);
see also Barnhart v. Thomas, 540 U.S. 20, 24 (2003).
Step one directs the ALJ to determine whether the claimant is
engaged in "substantial gainful activity." 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i). If so, the claimant is not
disabled and the Commissioner denies the claim. Id.
second step requires the ALJ to determine whether the
claimant's medically determinable impairment is
"severe." Id. § 404.1520(a)(4)(H).
"Severe" impairments are those that significantly
limit the claimant's physical or mental ability to do
basic work activities. Id. § 404.1520(c). The
Commissioner will deny the ...