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Beugli v. Colyin

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

October 1, 2013

TYLER D. BEUGLI, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLYIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

ROBERT E. JONES, Senior District Judge.

Plaintiff Tyler Beugli appeals the Commissioner's decision denying his concurrent applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. The court has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). I AFFIRM the Commissioner's decision.

PRIOR PROCEEDINGS

Beugli filed his applications in September 2009, initially alleging disability beginning in August 2008. Admin. R. 191. At his administrative hearing, however, it became clear that Beugli asserted disability beginning when he was struck by a motor vehicle while walking in August 2009. Admin. R. 34-35. He alleged he could not work due to brain trauma, injuries to his right leg, and a life-long learning disability. He said he had poor reading and comprehension skills, difficulty understanding and carrying out instructions, and problems walking without an assistive device such as a cane or a walker. Admin. R. 196.

The ALJ applied the sequential disability determination process described in 20 C.F.R. sections 404.1520 and 416.920. See Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987). The ALJ found that Beugli's ability to work was adversely affected by borderline intellectual functioning, a cognitive disorder, a learning disorder, residual effects of a right leg fracture, cannabis dependence, and alcohol abuse in claimed remission. Admin. R. 14. The ALJ found that, despite these impahments, Beugli retained the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work that is simple and routine and does not involve public contact, with additional restrictions on climbing, balancing, exposure to hazards, and postural activities such as crouching, crawling, and so forth. Admin. R. 17-18.

The vocational expert ("VE") testified that a person having Beugli's RFC and vocational factors could perform the activities required in light, unskilled occupations such as laundry sorter, bagger, and tableworker, representing hundreds of thousands of jobs in the national economy. Admin. R. 23, 70-71. The ALJ concluded that Beugli was not disabled. Admin. R. 23.

Several months after the ALJ's adverse determination, Beugli's attorney solicited an additional psychological evaluation, which was performed by John Cochran, Ph.D. Admin. R. 403-13. Buegli then requested review from the Appeals Council based on Dr. Cochran's report. The Appeals Council declined to review the ALJ's decision, but made Dr. Cochran's report a part of the administrative record. Admin. R. 1-5. The ALJ's decision then became the final decision of the Commissioner. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The district court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if it is based on proper legal standards and the findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Batson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004). Under this standard, the Commissioner's factual findings must be upheld if supported by inferences reasonably drawn from the record even if evidence exists to support another rational interpretation. Batson, 359 F.3d at 1193; Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039-40 (9th Cir. 1995).

Beugli does not challenge the ALJ's evaluation of the evidence before him at the time of his decision. His appeal is based entirely on the post-decision evidence from Dr. Cochran.[1] When a claimant submits new evidence for the first time to the Appeals Council, the district court must determine whether, in light of the record as a whole including the evidence submitted for the first time to the Appeals Council, the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence. Brewes v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 682 F.3d 1157, 1163 (9th Cir. 2012); Lingenfelter v. Astrue, 504 F.3d 1028, 1030 n. 2 (9th Cir. 2007); Ramirez v. Shalala, 8 F.3d 1449, 1452 (9th Cir. 1993).[2]

DISCUSSION

I. Claims of Error

Beugli contends the post-decision psychological report from Dr. Cochran determined the ALJ's determinations that Beugli's subjective statements were not entirely credible, that Beugli's impairments satisfied the severity requirement (step two), that Beugli failed to satisfy the criteria for presumptive disability under the Listing of Impairments (step three), that Beugli retained the RFC described previously, and that jobs which are not precluded by Beugli's RFC exist in the national economy (step 5).

II. Credibility Determination

In his written application, Beugli alleged disability due to brain trauma and leg injuries sustained when he was hit by a car and from a long term learning disability. He said he had difficulty understanding and carrying out instructions and job tasks, poor reading and comprehension skills, and difficulty walking without a cane or walker. Admin. R. 196.

At the administrative hearing, Beugli testified that he last worked in 2008 as a wildland firefighter at the end of the firefighting season. Admin. R. 34. In August 2009, he was struck by a motor vehicle while walking, resulting in injuries to his head and right leg. Admin. R. 35. After the accident, Beugli used a cane, but he no longer needed it at the time of the hearing. Admin. R. 35. He testified that he could walk up to a mile before needing to sit and rest. After standing for 15 ...


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