This social security action was submitted to the court, without oral argument, for ruling on plaintiff's motion for summary judgment or remand, and defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment. For the reasons explained below, plaintiff's motion for remand will be granted, the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner) will be reversed, and the matter will be remanded for further proceedings consistent with this order.
Plaintiff Daniel Micsa applied for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (the Act) on November 21, 2003. (Transcript (Tr.) at 208-11.) Plaintiff claimed disability based on degenerative spinal disease, psychosis, a personality disorder, a speech impediment, and a hand injury. (Tr. at 214-15.) Plaintiff's application was denied initially on March 5, 2004. (Tr. at 193, 195-99.) Plaintiff requested reconsideration on the ground that he has severe mental problems and learning disabilities. (Tr. at 200.) Upon reconsideration, the Commissioner denied plaintiff's application on October 21, 2004. (Tr. at 194, 201-06.)
Pursuant to plaintiff's timely request for a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ), plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared and testified at a hearing on August 8, 2005. (Tr. at 207, 867-78.) In a decision dated September 15, 2005, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled through the date of the decision. (Tr. at 18-26.) The ALJ entered the following findings:
1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset of disability.
2. The claimant's chronic low back pain and bipolar affective disorder, mixed type are considered "severe" based on requirements in the Regulations 20 CFR § 416.920(c).
3. These medically determinable impairments do not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments in Appendix 1, Subpart P, Regulation No. 4.
4. The undersigned finds the claimant's allegations regarding his limitations are not totally credible for the reasons set forth in the body of the decision.
5. The claimant has the following residual functional capacity: perform a slightly modified range of medium work, lifting 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently, walk/stand six hours, sit six hours, frequently crawling and occasionally perform other postural activities, and mentally perform simple routine tasks with decreased public contact. He has no manipulative, visual, communicative, environmental, or other mental limitations.
6. The claimant has no past relevant work (20 CFR § 416.965).
7. The claimant is a 'younger individual' (20 CFR § 416.963).
8. The claimant has 'a high school (or high school equivalent) education' (20 CFR § 416.964).
9. The claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform substantially all of the full range of medium work (20 CFR § 416.967).
10. Based on an exertional capacity for medium work, and the claimant's age, education, and work experience, Medical-Vocational Rule 203.28, Appendix 2, Subpart P, Regulations No. 4 would direct a conclusion of "not disabled."
11. The claimant's capacity for medium work is substantially intact and has not been compromised by any non-exertional limitations. Accordingly, using the above-cited rule(s) as a framework for decision-making, the claimant is not disabled.
12. The claimant was not under a "disability," as defined in the Social Security Act, at any time through the date of this decision (20 CFR § 416.920(g)). (Tr. at 25-26.)
Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ's hearing decision and submitted additional evidence concerning his mental health problems to the Appeals Council. (Tr. at 9-14, 861-66.) On November 2, 2006, the Appeals Council considered plaintiff's additional evidence but denied plaintiff's request for review. (Tr. at 9-12.) Plaintiff sought judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) by filing the complaint in this action on December 14, 2006.
The Commissioner's decision that a claimant is not disabled will be upheld if the findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole and the proper legal standards were applied. Schneider v. Comm'r of the Soc. Sec. Admin., 223 F.3d 968, 973 (9th Cir. 2000); Morgan v. Comm'r of the Soc. Sec. Admin., 169 F.3d 595, 599 (9th Cir. 1999). The findings of the Commissioner as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, are conclusive. See Miller v. Heckler, 770 F.2d 845, 847 (9th Cir. 1985). Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Osenbrock v. Apfel, 240 F.3d ...