The opinion of the court was delivered by: Carla M. Woehrle United States Magistrate Judge
The parties have consented, under 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), to the jurisdiction of the undersigned Magistrate Judge. Plaintiff seeks review of the Commissioner's denial of disability benefits. As discussed below, the court finds that the Commissioner's decision should be reversed and this matter remanded for further proceedings.
Plaintiff German Mejia was born on January 27, 1958, and was 50 years old at the time of his administrative hearing. [Administrative Record ("AR") 29.] He had eleven years of education in Honduras, and speaks minimal English. [AR 29-30.] He identified past relevant work experience as a house painter and maintenance worker. [AR 33, 106.] Plaintiff alleges disability due to an inability to walk or stand for a long period of time. [AR 105.]
II. PROCEEDINGS IN THIS COURT
Plaintiff's complaint was lodged on April 6, 2009. On September 16, 2009, Defendant filed an answer and Plaintiff's Administrative Record ("AR"). On November 12, 2009, the parties filed their Joint Stipulation ("JS") identifying matters not in dispute, issues in dispute, the positions of the parties, and the relief sought by each party. This matter has been taken under submission without oral argument.
III. PRIOR ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS
Plaintiff protectively applied for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act on December 16, 2006, alleging disability since March 1, 2005. [AR 13, 86-94.] After the applications were denied, Plaintiff requested and received an administrative hearing, which was held on May 14, 2008, before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). [AR 23.] Plaintiff appeared with counsel, and testimony was taken from Plaintiff, with the assistance of a Spanish interpreter, and from a vocational expert. [Id.] The ALJ denied benefits in a decision issued on September 25, 2008. [AR 13-20.] When the Appeals Council denied review on February 4, 2009, the ALJ's decision became the Commissioner's final decision. [AR 1.]
Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), a district court may review the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. The Commissioner's (or ALJ's) findings and decision should be upheld if they are free of legal error and supported by substantial evidence. However, if the court determines that a finding is based on legal error or is not supported by substantial evidence in the record, the court may reject the finding and set aside the decision to deny benefits. See Aukland v. Massanari, 257 F.3d 1033, 1035 (9th Cir. 2001); Tonapetyan v. Halter, 242 F.3d 1144, 1147 (9th Cir. 2001); Osenbrock v. Apfel, 240 F.3d 1157, 1162 (9th Cir. 2001); Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1097 (9th Cir. 1999); Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 720 (9th Cir. 1998); Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996); Moncada v. Chater, 60 F.3d 521, 523 (9th Cir. 1995)(per curiam). "Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance." Reddick, 157 F.3d at 720. It is "relevant evidence which a reasonable person might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Id. To determine whether substantial evidence supports a finding, a court must review the administrative record as a whole, "weighing both the evidence that supports and the evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's conclusion." Id. "If the evidence can reasonably support either affirming or reversing," the reviewing court "may not substitute its judgment" for that of the Commissioner. Reddick, 157 F.3d at 720-721; see also Osenbrock, 240 F.3d at 1162.
A. THE FIVE-STEP EVALUATION
To be eligible for disability benefits a claimant must demonstrate a medically determinable impairment which prevents the claimant from engaging in substantial gainful activity and which is expected to result in death or to last for a continuous period of at least twelve months. Tackett, ...