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.*fn1 For the reasons explained below, plaintiff's motion is granted, defendant's cross-motion is denied, the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner) is reversed, and the matter is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this order.
On January 25, 2008, plaintiff filed an application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (the Act), alleging disability beginning on February 1, 2007. (Transcript (Tr.) at 142-48.) Plaintiff's application was denied initially and on reconsideration. (Id. at 68-78.)
Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), and an administrative hearing was held before an ALJ on February 23, 2010.*fn2 (Id. at 33-55.) Plaintiff was represented by counsel and testified at that administrative hearing. In a decision issued on April 12, 2010, the ALJ found that plaintiff was not disabled. (Id. at 16-27.) The ALJ entered the following findings:
1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 25, 2008, the application date (20 CFR 416.971 et seq.).
2. The claimant has the following severe impairments: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), lumbar strain, mild osteoarthritis, obesity, and depression (20 CFR 416.920(c)).
3. The claimant 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 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
4. After careful consideration of the entire record, I find that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b) except the claimant is precluded from squatting, kneeling, crawling, or climbing ladders, ropes or scaffolding, and should not work at heights or around hazardous machinery, and should avoid concentrated exposure to dusts, fumes, smoke or other respiratory irritants. Additionally, the claimant is limited to work involving simple instructions and relatively limited contact with the public and co-workers.
5. The claimant has no past relevant work (20 CFR 416.965). 6. The claimant was born on October 31, 1964 and was 43 years old, which is defined as a "younger individual 18-49," on the date the application was filed (20 CFR 416.963).
7. The claimant has a "limited" education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 416.964).
8. Transferability of job skills is not an issue because the claimant does not have past relevant work (20 CFR 416.968).
9. Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the California economy that the claimant can perform (20 CFR 416.969 and 416.969(a)).
10. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, since January 25, 2008, the date the application was filed (20 CFR 416.920(g)). (Tr. at 18-26.)
On August 12, 2010, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's April 10, 2010 decision. (Id. at 1-5.) Plaintiff sought judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) by filing the complaint in this action on October 4, 2010.
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, ...