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 (the Commissioner) is reversed, and the matter is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this order.
On February 5, 2008, plaintiff filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) under Title II of the Social Security Act (the Act) and for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under Title XVI of the Act, alleging disability beginning on October 31, 2000. (Transcript (Tr.) at 116-17.) Plaintiff's alleged onset date was later amended to September 1, 2006. Plaintiff's applications were denied initially on September 29, 2008, and upon reconsideration on January 29, 2009. (Id. at 37, 31.)
Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), and a hearing was held before an ALJ on January 11, 2010. (Id. at 448-97.) Plaintiff was represented by counsel and testified at the administrative hearing. In a decision issued on April 16, 2010, the ALJ found that plaintiff was not disabled. (Id. at 15-24.) The ALJ entered the following findings:
1. Ms. Colbert meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through June 30, 2012.
2. Ms. Colbert has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the amended on-set date of September 1, 2006, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1520(b), 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq.).
3. Ms. Colbert has the following severe impairments: status post cervical cancer, bilateral heel spurs, and obesity (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).
4. Ms. Colbert does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the court finds that Ms. Colbert has the residual functional capacity to perform a modified range of light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except have a sit/stand option and occasionally perform postural activities.
6. Ms. Colbert is capable of performing past relevant work as a grocery courtesy clerk and fitness/circuit trainer. This work does not require the performance of work related activities precluded by Ms. Colbert's residual functional capacity (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. Ms. Colbert has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from September 1, 2006, through the date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(f) and 416.920(f)).
On November 23, 2010, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's April 16, 2010 decision. (Id. at 2-5.) Plaintiff sought judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) by filing the complaint in this action on January 21, 2011.
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 1157, 1162 (9th Cir. 2001) (citing Morgan, 169 F.3d at 599); Jones v. Heckler, 760 F.2d 993, 995 (9th Cir. 1985) (citing Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)).
A reviewing court must consider the record as a whole, weighing both the evidence that supports and the evidence that detracts from the ALJ's conclusion. Jones, 760 F.2d at 995. The court may not affirm the ALJ's decision simply by isolating a specific quantum of supporting evidence. Id.; see also Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989). If substantial evidence supports the administrative findings, or if there is conflicting evidence supporting a finding of either disability or non-disability, the finding of the ALJ is conclusive, Sprague v. Bowen, 812 F.2d 1226, 1229-30 (9th Cir. 1987), and may be set aside only if an improper legal standard was applied in weighing the evidence, Burkhart v. Bowen, 856 F.2d 1335, 1338 (9th Cir. 1988).
In determining whether or not a claimant is disabled, the ALJ should apply the five-step sequential evaluation process established under Title 20 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Sections 404.1520 and 416.920. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, ...