Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Tolento v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Nevada

February 7, 2018

CELIA B. TOLENTO, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER MOTION FOR REVERSAL AND/OR REMAND [ECF NO. 19], CROSS MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT TO AFFIRM [ECF NO. 20].

          CAM FERENBACH, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         The Court inadvertently entered the Report and Recommendation (ECF No. 22) in this case. Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the report and recommendation on the Motion for Reversal and/or Remand (ECF No. 19) and Cross Motion for Summary Judgment to Affirm (ECF No. 20) is stricken.

         This matter involves Plaintiff Celia B. Tolento's appeal from the Commissioner's final decision denying her social security benefits. Before the Court is Tolento's Motion for Reversal or Remand (ECF No. 19) and the Commissioner of Social Security's motion for summary judgment to affirm (ECF No. 20). For the reasons stated below the Court denies Tolento's motion to reverse or remand and grants the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment to affirm.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Fifth Amendment prohibits the government from depriving persons of property without due process of law. U.S. Const. amend. V. Social security claimants have a constitutionally protected property interest in social security benefits. Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 332 (1976). 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) authorizes the district court to review final decisions made by the Commissioner of Social Security.

         The district court will not disturb an Administrative Law Judge's (“ALJ”) denial of benefits unless “it is not supported by substantial evidence or it is based on legal error.” Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005). When reviewing an ALJ's decision, “the findings of the Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive.” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Substantial evidence means, “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion” and is defined as “more than a mere scintilla” of evidence. Gutierrez v. Comm'r of Soc Sec., 740 F.3d 519, 522 (9th Cir. 2014); Burch, 400 F.3d at 679.

         If the evidence could give rise to multiple rational interpretations, the court must uphold the ALJ's conclusion. Burch, 400 F.3d at 679. This means that the Court will uphold the Commissioner's decision if it has any support in the record. See, e.g., Bowling v. Shalala, 36 F.3d 431, 434 (5th Cir. 1988) (stating that the court may not reweigh evidence, try the case de novo, or overturn the Commissioner's decision if the evidence preponderates against it).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Factual Background

         The ALJ applied the five step sequential analysis pursuant to 20 C.F.R § 404.1520. The ALJ found that while Tolento suffered from various physical impairments, she also maintained “the residual functional capacity to perform light work… and occasional overhead reaching with both arms.” (AR 17).[1] The ALJ found that Tolento was therefore able to work as a receptionist, and thus denied her social security benefits. (AR 21). The ALJ based his determination upon the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (“DOT”) 237.367-038, claimant's medical history, objective medical evidence, and the testimony of a vocation expert who testified that Tolento had the residual functioning capacity to work as a receptionist. (AR 17-21, 28-45).

         Tolento claims that the ALJ made a legal error when he concluded that she had the residual function capacity to continue working as a receptionist. Specifically, Tolento argues that the DOT definition of “receptionist” requires frequent reaching without defining if that reaching includes overhead reaching. (ECF No. 19 at 7). Tolento argues that given the vagueness of this definition, the ALJ's finding that Tolento had the residual capacity to engage in work as a receptionist is in conflict with his finding that she had the residual capacity to engage in only occasional overhead reaching. (ECF No. 19 at 7).

         II. Analysis of Potential Conflict

         A Commissioner's decision will be upheld if it has any support in the record. Bowling, 36 F.3d at 434. While an ALJ may rely on the testimony of a vocation expert in reaching a decision, an ALJ must first inquire if the testimony conflicts with the DOT. Silvera v. Astrue, No. CV 09-1935 JC, 2010 WL 3001619, at *3 (C.D Cal July 29, 2010). The failure to do so, however, may be harmless error if no actual conflict exists. Id. For there to be a conflict between an expert's testimony and the DOT, the discrepancy must be “obvious or apparent.” Gutierrez v. Colvin, 844 F.3d 804, 808 (9th Cir. 2016). For a discrepancy to be obvious or apparent, the testimony “must be at odds with the Dictionary's listing of job requirements that are essential, integral, or expected.” Id.

         The ALJ's decision that Tolento had the residual functional capacity to work as a receptionist did not contradict his finding that she had the residual capacity to engage in only occasional overhead reaching, because his decision has sufficient support within the record. While Tolento argues that the DOT definition is too vague to support the ALJ's finding, the ALJ did not rely solely on the DOT definition in reaching his decision. He also consulted a vocation expert who testified that given Tolento's physical impairments, she could perform the work of a receptionist. (AR 40-43). Further, the ALJ met his affirmative responsibility to question the vocation expert about any potential conflict between his testimony and the DOT definition. After informing the vocation expert of Tolento's restriction ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.