This social security action was submitted to the court, without oral argument, for ruling on plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment. For the reasons explained below, plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is granted, the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner) is reversed, and this matter is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this order.
On January 28, 2004, plaintiff applied for disability benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act (Act). (Transcript (Tr.) at 64-66.) Plaintiff's application was denied initially on June 10, 2004, and upon reconsideration on September 9, 2004. (Tr. at 24-43.) Pursuant to plaintiff's timely request, a hearing was held before an administrative law judge (ALJ) on January 18, 2006, at which time plaintiff was represented by counsel and testified. (Tr. at 44, 437-71.) In a decision issued on March 28, 2006, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled through that date. (Tr. at 13-23.) The ALJ entered the following findings:
1. The claimant met the disability insured status requirements of the Act on April 26, 2003, the date the claimant alleges she became unable to work, and continues to meet them through the date of this decision.
2. The claimant has not performed substantial gainful activity since April 26, 2003.
3. The medical evidence establishes that the claimant has severe depression and diabetes, but that she does not have an impairment, or combination of impairments, listed in or equivalent in medical severity to one listed in, Appendix 1, Subpart P, Regulations No. 4.
4. The allegations of the claimant and her family are not credible.
5. The claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform the physical exertion and non-exertional requirements of work, except: she can lift and carry up to fifty pounds occasionally and twenty-five pounds frequently; she can stand/walk up to six hours in a workday; she cannot climb ladders or scaffolding, but can climb stairs; she cannot work at unprotected heights or around dangerous machinery; she cannot perform a job that requires good hearing in the left ear; she can perform only unskilled tasks (20 CFR 404.1545).
6. The claimant's past relevant unskilled work as hospital housekeeper does not require the performance of work-related activities precluded by the above limitations (20 CFR 404.1565).
7. The claimant's impairments do not prevent the claimant from performing his [sic] past relevant work.
8. The claimant's residual functional capacity for the full range of medium work is reduced by the following limitations: she cannot climb ladders or scaffolding, but can climb stairs; she cannot work at unprotected heights or around dangerous machinery; she cannot perform a job that requires good hearing in the left ear; she can perform only unskilled tasks.
9. The claimant is 54 years old, which is defined in the regulations as "approaching advanced age" (20 CFR 404.1563).
10. The claimant has a 12th grade education (20 CFR 404.1564).
11. If the claimant had the residual functional capacity to perform the full range of medium work, given her age, education, and work experience, section 404.1569 of Regulations No. 4 and section 416.969 of Regulations No. 16, and Rule 203.21, Table No. 3, Appendix 2, Subpart P, Regulations No. 4, would direct a finding that the claimant is "not disabled."
12. Although the claimant's additional non-exertional limitations do not allow her to perform the full range of medium work, using the above cited rule(s) as a framework for decisionmaking, there are a significant number of jobs in the national economy that she could still perform. Example of such jobs are: kitchen helper, with 15,000 jobs in the state; hand packager, with 13,000 jobs in the state; cashier, with 160,000 jobs; mail clerk, with 10,000 jobs. Thus, the claimant would not be disabled, even if she were unable to perform her past work.
13. The claimant has not been under a "disability," as defined in the Social Security Act, at any time through the date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(f) and (g)).
On April 8, 2006, plaintiff requested review of the ALJ's decision. (Tr. at 8-9.) The Appeals Council denied the request on February 16, 2007. (Tr. at 5-7.) Plaintiff sought judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) by filing the complaint in this action on April 3, 2007.
The Commissioner's decision that a claimant is not disabled will be upheld if the findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence 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 ...