The opinion of the court was delivered by: Marc L. Goldman United States Magistrate Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff John Faure seeks judicial review of the Commissioner's denial of his application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") benefits under the Social Security Act. For the reasons stated below, the decision of the Commissioner is REVERSED and the matter is REMANDED for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
I. Factual and Procedural History
Plaintiff was born on January 27, 1964. (Administrative Record ("AR") at 48.) He graduated from high school and completed two years of college. (AR at 137.) Plaintiff has work experience as a baker, molder operator and sponge maker. (AR at 133.)
Plaintiff filed an application for benefits on May 6, 2008, alleging disability since April 19, 2006, due to disorders of the muscle, ligament and fascia. (AR at 14, 48.) Plaintiff's application was denied initially on July 28, 2008 and upon reconsideration on October 16, 2008. (AR at 50-53, 57-61.) An administrative hearing was held on December 9, 2009, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") F. Keith Varni, at which Plaintiff, represented by counsel, testified. (AR at 33-47.)
On January 13, 2010, ALJ Varni denied Plaintiff's application for benefits. (AR at 14-26.) The ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset dat. (AR at 16.) The ALJ further found that the medical evidence established that Plaintiff suffered from a severe impairment of the musculoskeletal system. (Id.) However, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet, or were not medically equal to, one of the impairments listed in 20 C.F.R., Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (AR at 18.) The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform a full range of light work with the following limitations: "The claimant may perform occasional postural activities, but is precluded from climbing ladders, ropes or scaffolds and working on uneven terrain. The claimant is limited to frequent reaching with the left upper extremity." (AR at 18-19.)
The ALJ found that Plaintiff was unable to perform his past relevant work as a bakery worker. (AR at 25.) However, relying on the Medical-Vocational Guidelines (the "grids"), the ALJ found that there were jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform (20 C.F.R. 404.1569, 404.1569(a)). (Id.) The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was therefore not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. (AR at 26.)
On July 29, 2011, the Appeals Council denied review (AR at 1-3), and Plaintiff timely commenced this action for judicial review. On April 6, 2012, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("Joint Stip.") of disputed facts and issues. Plaintiff contends that the ALJ erred by: (1) improperly relying on the grids in concluding that there were a significant number of jobs in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform, and (2) failing to properly consider Plaintiff's subjective pain testimony. (Joint Stip. at 2.) Plaintiff asks the Court to reverse the decision and order an award of benefits, or in the alternative, remand for further administrative proceedings. (Joint Stip. at 16.) The Commissioner requests that the ALJ's decision be affirmed. (Id.)
After reviewing the parties' respective contentions and the record as a whole, the Court finds Plaintiff's contention regarding the ALJ's error in relying on the medical-vocational to be meritorious and remands this matter for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.*fn1
Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), a district court may review the Social Security Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. The Court must uphold the Social Security Administration's disability determination unless it is not supported by substantial evidence or is based on legal error.
Ryan v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 528 F.3d 1194, 1198 (9th Cir. 2008)(citing Stout v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 454 F.3d 1050, 1052 (9th Cir. 2006)). Substantial evidence means more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance; it is evidence that "a reasonable person might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Lingenfelter v. Astrue, 504 F.3d 1028, 1035 (9th Cir. 2007)(citing Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006)). To determine whether substantial evidence supports a finding, the reviewing 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." Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 720 (9th Cir. 1996). "If the evidence can support either affirming or reversing the ALJ's conclusion," the reviewing court "may not substitute [its] judgment for that of the ALJ." Robbins, 466 F.3d at 882.
Plaintiff contends that the ALJ erred by neglecting to obtain vocational expert testimony on the issue of whether there existed work in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform given his limitations, and instead relying solely on the ...