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.

Velarde v. Colvin

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

May 31, 2013

Michael Velarde, Plaintiff,
v.
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

ORDER

NEIL V. WAKE, District Judge.

Before the Court is Plaintiff's Opening Brief (Doc. 26) and Defendant's Response Brief (Doc. 29). Plaintiff did not file a Reply Brief.

Plaintiff Michael Velarde seeks review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("the Commissioner"), which denied him disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income under sections 216(i), 223(d), and 1614(a)(3)(A) of the Social Security Act. Because the decision of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") is supported by substantial evidence and is not based on legal error, the Commissioner's decision will be affirmed.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

Velarde was born in November 1963. He has been diagnosed with cervical and lumbar degenerative disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease, obstructive sleep apnea, carpal tunnel syndrome, diabetes mellitus, fibromyalgia, bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety disorder. In November 2010, he testified that he had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia about 5 or 6 months before the hearing. He also testified that his diabetes and manic episodes were controlled by medication, but he continued to have depression and pain in his neck, back, and hands.

Velarde is able to drive, shop, go to medical appointments, prepare simple meals, do laundry, and perform personal care. He watches television and uses a computer and the Internet. He has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English. He previously worked as an account manager/customer service for a company that performed DVD and CD replication, customer service representative at a call center, and manager of a car rental company. He testified that he stopped working for the car rental company because of the stress, he stopped working at the call center because it went bankrupt, and he quit the replication company because he had bad anxiety attacks.

B. Procedural History

On January 23, 2008, Velarde protectively applied for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income, alleging disability beginning April 15, 2005. On November 15, 2010, he appeared with his attorney and testified at a hearing before the ALJ. A vocational expert also testified.

On January 27, 2011, the ALJ issued a decision that Velarde was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. The Appeals Council denied Velarde's request for review of the hearing decision, making the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final decision. On May 7, 2007, Velarde sought review by this Court.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The district court reviews only those issues raised by the party challenging the ALJ's decision. See Lewis v. Apfel, 236 F.3d 503, 517 n.13 (9th Cir. 2001). The court may set aside the Commissioner's disability determination only if the determination is not supported by substantial evidence or is based on legal error. Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla, less than a preponderance, and relevant evidence that a reasonable person might accept as adequate to support a conclusion considering the record as a whole. Id. In determining whether substantial evidence supports a decision, the court must consider the record as a whole and may not affirm simply by isolating a "specific quantum of supporting evidence." Id. As a general rule, "[w]here the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, one of which supports the ALJ's decision, the ALJ's conclusion must be upheld." Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002) (citations omitted).

The ALJ is responsible for resolving conflicts in medical testimony, determining credibility, and resolving ambiguities. Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 1995). In reviewing the ALJ's reasoning, the court is "not deprived of [its] faculties for drawing specific and legitimate inferences from the ALJ's opinion." Magallanes v. Bowen, 881 F.2d 747, 755 (9th Cir. 1989).

III. FIVE-STEP SEQUENTIAL EVALUATION PROCESS

To determine whether a claimant is disabled for purposes of the Social Security Act, the ALJ follows a five-step process. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a). The claimant bears the burden of proof on the first four steps, but at step five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner. Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th Cir. 1999).

At the first step, the ALJ determines whether the claimant is engaging in substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i). If so, the claimant is not disabled and the inquiry ends. Id. At step two, the ALJ determines whether the claimant has a "severe" medically determinable physical or mental impairment. § 404.1520(a)(4)(ii). If not, the claimant is not disabled and the inquiry ends. Id. At step three, the ALJ considers whether the claimant's impairment or combination of impairments meets or medically equals an impairment listed in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii). If so, the claimant is automatically found to be disabled. Id. If not, the ALJ proceeds to step four. At step four, the ALJ assesses the claimant's residual functional capacity and determines whether the claimant is still capable of performing past relevant work. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iv). If so, the claimant is not disabled and the inquiry ends. Id. If not, the ALJ proceeds to the fifth and final step, where he determines whether the claimant can perform any other work based on the claimant's residual functional capacity, age, education, and work experience. § 404.1520(a)(4)(v). If so, the claimant is not disabled. Id. If not, the claimant is disabled. Id.

The ALJ found that Velarde meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2010, and that he has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 15, 2005. At step two, the ALJ found that Velarde has the following impairments that are severe when considered in combination: cervical and lumbar degenerative disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease, obstructive sleep apnea, carpal tunnel syndrome, diabetes mellitus, fibromyalgia, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety disorder, and alcohol abuse in remission. At step three, the ALJ determined that Velarde ...


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.