The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN HOUSTON, Magistrate Judge
ORDER (1) GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; (2)
DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; AND (3) REMANDING
THE CASE FOR ADDITIONAL EVIDENCE AND FINDINGS.
Plaintiff Richard Foursprings, through counsel, filed this
action pursuant to the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g),
to obtain judicial review of a "final decision" of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("SSA"),
denying his claim for disability insurance benefits. Before the
Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and Defendant's
Cross Motion for Summary Judgment. After a thorough review of the
pleadings filed by the parties, the entire record submitted in
this matter, and for the reasons set forth below, this Court
DENIES Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, GRANTS
Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, and REMANDS for
additional evidence and findings consistent with this Order. BACKGROUND
Plaintiff was born May 5, 1940. A.R.*fn1 at 23. Although
the record reflects that Plaintiff attended college and has
sixteen years of education, he stated at the hearing before the
Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") that he could not remember if he
attended college. A.R. at 24. His past relevant work was as a
caretaker and general laborer. Id. Plaintiff alleges that he
has been disabled since October 30, 1998, due to schizophrenia,
diabetes, and fatigue. A.R. at 88.
Plaintiff filed his current application for disability
insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act on
February 5, 2001, which was denied initially and on
reconsideration. A.R. 77-79, 58-61, 63-66. There was a hearing
held by an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") on April 4, 2002.
A.R. at 17-38. The ALJ issued a written decision denying benefits
on May 9, 2002. A.R. at 8. On January 3, 2003, Plaintiff's
request for appellate review was denied. A.R. at 4.
Plaintiff, through counsel, filed the instant Complaint on
February 7, 2003. [Doc. # 1.] Defendant filed an Answer and
lodged the Administrative Record with the Court on May 25, 2004.
[Doc. # 8-9.] Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment was filed
on March 21, 2005. [Doc. # 12.] Defendant's Opposition to
Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and Cross-Motion for
Summary Judgment was filed on May 17, 2005. [Doc. # 17-18.] See
In a written decision, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's
impairments were not severe because they did not impose more than
minimal work-related limitations. A.R. at 12. The ALJ determined
that Plaintiff had never been diagnosed with or treated for
diabetes, although Plaintiff claimed to have the condition and
claimed to control it with a special diet and daily afternoon naps. Id. The ALJ further found that
Plaintiff had sought treatment for fatigue symptoms, but that
there was no identifiable source of the Plaintiff's fatigue and
no specific course of treatment for fatigue had been recommended.
A.R. at 12-13. The ALJ noted that Plaintiff had complained of
back pain and blackouts during one physical examination, but that
the examination was found to be completely normal. A.R. at 13.
Regarding Plaintiff's alleged psychiatric problems, the ALJ
reviewed conflicting medical opinions, but concluded that all of
Plaintiff's impairments, individually or in combination, did not
result in more than minimal work-related limitations. A.R. 13-14.
The ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not disabled at step two of
the five step sequential process for evaluating whether a person
is disabled under the Social Security Act, and therefore not
entitled to disability benefits at any time through the date of
the ALJ's decision. A.R. at 15.
To qualify for disability benefits under the Social Security
Act, an applicant must show that: (1) he suffers from a medically
determinable impairment that can be expected to result in death
or that has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous
period of not less than twelve months; and (2) the impairment
renders the applicant incapable of performing the work that he
previously performed or any other substantially gainful
employment that exists in the national economy. See
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A), (2)(A). An applicant must meet both requirements to
be "disabled." Id.
The Secretary of the Social Security Administration has
established a five-step sequential evaluation process for
determining whether a person is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520,
416.920. Step one determines whether the claimant is engaged in
"substantial gainful activity." If he is, disability benefits are
denied. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b), 416.920(b). If he is not, the
decision maker proceeds to step two, which determines whether the
claimant has a medically severe impairment or combination of
The inquiry at step two of the disability evaluation process,
whether the claimant has a medically severe impairment or combination of impairments, is a
de minimis screening device to dispose of groundless claims.
Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1290 (9th Cir. 1996), citing
Browen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 153-54. "An impairment or
combination of impairments can be found not severe only if the
evidence establishes a slight abnormality that has no more than a
minimal effect on an individual's ability to work." Id.
(internal citations omitted). "An impairment or combination of
impairments is not severe if it does not significantly limit your
physical or mental ability to do basic work activities."
20 C.F.R. § 404.1521(a). "[B]asic work activities [include] the
abilities and aptitudes necessary to do most jobs."
20 C.F.R. § 404.1521(b). Physical examples include walking, standing,
sitting, lifting, pushing, pulling, reaching, carrying, handling,
seeing, hearing, and speaking. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1521(b)(1)-(2).
Mental examples include understanding, carrying out, and
remembering simple instructions; use of judgment; responding
appropriately to supervision, co-workers and usual work
situations; and dealing with changes in a routine work setting.
20 C.F.R. § 404.1521(b)(3)-(6).
If at step two it is determined that the claimant does not have
a severe impairment or combination of impairments, the disability
claim is denied. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c). If the
impairment is severe, the evaluation proceeds to the third step,
which determines whether the impairment is equivalent to one of a
number of listed impairments that the Secretary acknowledges are
so severe as to preclude substantial gainful activity.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d); 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Appendix 1 to
Subpart P. If the impairment meets or equals one of the listed
impairments, the claimant is conclusively presumed to be
disabled. If a condition "falls short of the [listing] criterion"
a multiple factor analysis is appropriate. Celaya v. Halter,
332 F.3d 1177, 1181 (9th Cir. 2003). In such analysis, "the
Commissioner of ...