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 is granted, the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner) is reversed, and the matter is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
In August 2003, plaintiff Bao Moua, also known as Bao Moua Lee, applied for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (the Act). (Transcript (Tr.) at 42.) She alleged that she became disabled on January 7, 2000, due to pain, depression, headaches, and dizziness. (Id.) The application was denied by the agency initially and upon reconsideration, and Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Plauche F. Villere, Jr. found plaintiff not disabled on June 21, 2005. (Tr. at 42-47.) The ALJ determined that plaintiff had the medically determinable impairment of anemia but did not have any impairment that would significantly limit her ability to perform work-related activities. (Tr. at 46.) On August 16, 2005, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision and plaintiff did not seek judicial review of that decision. (Tr. at 8, 88.)
On September 30, 2005, plaintiff filed a new application for SSI, again alleging disability beginning January 7, 2000. (Tr. at 74-81.) At that time she alleged that she was unable to work because of pain, dizziness, blurred vision, and depression. (Tr. at 51.) The application was denied initially on March 9, 2006, and upon reconsideration on December 15, 2006. (Tr. at 51-60.) Upon plaintiff's request, a hearing was held before ALJ Mark C. Ramsey on December 11, 2007. (Tr. at 17-36, 61.) Plaintiff was represented by an attorney and testified at the hearing through an interpreter. In a decision issued on February 26, 2008, the ALJ found plaintiff not disabled. (Tr. at 8-11.) First, ALJ Ramsey determined that the findings enumerated by ALJ Villere on June 21, 2005 had not changed. (Tr. at 11.) The 2005 findings were as follows.
1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset of disability.
2. The claimant has the following medically determinable impairment(s): anemia.
3. The claimant does not have any impairment or impairments that significantly limit her ability to perform basic work-related activities; therefore, the claimant does not have a "severe" impairment (20 CFR § 416.920).
4. 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(c)).
(Tr. at 46.) After determining that these findings were unchanged, ALJ Ramsey entered the following findings in his February 26, 2008 decision:
1. The claimant has not performed any substantial gainful activity since her alleged date of disability.
2. The claimant does not have impairment, or impairments that significantly limit her ability to perform the basic work-related activities; therefore, the claimant does not have a severe impairment.
3. The claimant is not under a disability as defined by the Social Security Act and Regulations, at any time through the date of this decision.
On June 21, 2008, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision, thereby making it the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. at 1-4.) Plaintiff sought judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) by filing the complaint in this action on August 20, 2008.
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. 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 ...