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Fruits v. Colvin

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

October 17, 2013

Jason Fruits, Plaintiff,
v.
Carolyn Colvin, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

ORDER

DAVID G. CAMPBELL, District Judge.

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), Plaintiff Jason Fruits seeks judicial review of the Commissioner's decision finding him not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. The Court will affirm the Commissioner's decision.[1]

I. Background.[2]

An administrative law judge ("ALJ") denied Plaintiff's application for social security benefits, finding Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. Tr. 27. The decision became Defendant's final decision when the Appeals Council denied review. Id. at 1. Plaintiff then brought this action for judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 495(g).

II. Legal Standard.

Defendant's decision to deny benefits will be vacated "only if it is not supported by substantial evidence or is based on legal error." Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006). "Substantial evidence' means more than a mere scintilla, but less than a preponderance, i.e., such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Id. In determining whether the decision is supported by substantial evidence, the Court must consider the record as a whole, weighing both the evidence that supports the decision and the evidence that detracts from it. Reddick v. Charter, 157 F.3d 715, 720 (9th Cir. 1998). If there is sufficient evidence to support the Commissioner's determination, the Court cannot substitute its own determination. See Young v. Sullivan, 911 F.2d 180, 184 (9th Cir. 1990).

III. Analysis.

For purposes of Social Security benefits determinations, a disability is

the inability to do any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.

20 C.F.R. § 404.1505.

Determining whether a claimant is disabled involves a five-step evaluation. The claimant must show (1) she is not currently engaged in substantial gainful employment, (2) she has a severe physical or mental impairment, and (3) the impairment meets or equals a listed impairment or (4) her residual functional capacity ("RFC") precludes her from performing her past work. If at any step the Commissioner determines that a claimant is or is not disabled, the analysis ends; otherwise it proceeds to step five. If the claimant meets her burden through step four, the Commissioner bears the burden at step five of showing that the claimant has the RFC to perform other work that exists in substantial numbers in the national economy. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(v).

At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity from his alleged disability onset date through the date of the ALJ"s decision. Tr. 19. At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from ischemic heart disease, depression, cardiomyopathy, dizziness, anxiety, fatigue, edema, status post Maze procedure, obesity, and congestive heart failure. Id. at 20. The ALJ categorized these as severe impairments as defined by Social Security regulations. Id. At step three, the ALJ found that the combination of impairments did not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments. Id. ; see C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P. app, 1. At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the RFC to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a), except that he could not climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds and was limited to occasional climbing of stairs and ramps. Tr. 23. Additionally, the ALJ found that Plaintiff could "engage in no more than occasional balancing, stooping, crouching, kneeling, and crawling, and that he should avoid concentrated exposure to extreme heat and cold, " and "should avoid concentrated exposure to irritants such as fumes, odors, dust, gases, and... concentrated exposure to poorly ventilated areas." Id. The ALJ found that Plaintiff could not be exposed to moving machinery or unprotected heights and was limited to work that is simple, routine, and repetitive in an environment free from paced production and work place changes. Id. With that RFC, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was unable to perform any past relevant work. Id. at 26. The ALJ determined at step five, however, that Plaintiff's RFC enabled him to perform jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy. Id. at 26; see C.F.R. 404.1569, 404.1569(a), 416.969, & 416.969(a). Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. Tr. 27.

Plaintiff alleges that the ALJ erred by finding that his impairment did not meet or equal a listed impairment, improperly assessing his RFC, failing to properly weigh medical source opinions, and failing to properly weigh reported symptoms. Plaintiff asserts that the matter should be ...


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