United States District Court, C.D. California, Western Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
DOUGLAS F. McCORMICK, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff Melissa Ann Krolin appeals from the denial of her application for disability benefits. Because the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") erred, at steps two and three of the sequential evaluation process, as discussed below, the Commissioner's decision is reversed and the matter is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
On January 20, 2010, Plaintiff filed an application for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits. Administrative Record ("AR") 113, 188-96. She alleged disability beginning July 1, 2008, because of severe malnutrition, fibromyalgia, acute osteoporosis, insomnia, hypokalemia, anemia, thrombocytopenia, peptic ulcer disease, depression, and intellectual disability. AR 128, 239, 245, 269. After hearings on April 26, 2011, and July 21, 2011, an ALJ found that Plaintiff had severe impairments of "recurrent peptic ulcer disease, status post multiple gastrointestinal surgeries; status post appendectomy; history of gastric outlet obstruction; history of fibromyalgia; depression; degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine; and chronic asthma." AR 30. The ALJ concluded that, from July 1, 2008, to July 1, 2010, Plaintiff's gastrointestinal impairments met Listings 5.06(A) and 5.08, rendering her disabled. AR 32-34. The ALJ found, however, that medical improvements had ended Plaintiff's disability on July 2, 2010, and that she had developed no additional medically determinable impairments after that date. AR 34-36, 39. The ALJ concluded that, as of July 2, 2010, Plaintiff had a residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work with additional restrictions, including that Plaintiff was limited to "simple, repetitive tasks" and "short, simple work-related decision-making." AR 36. A vocational expert ("VE") opined that Plaintiff could not perform her past relevant work as a receptionist and shipping clerk. AR 38-39. The VE then identified three jobs available in significant numbers that could be performed by an individual with Plaintiff's RFC. AR 39. The ALJ therefore found that Plaintiff was not disabled as of July 2, 2010. Id.
The parties dispute whether the ALJ erred in determining (1) that Plaintiff's intellectual impairment was nonsevere and did not meet a listing and (2) in evaluating her credibility. See Joint Stipulation ("JS") at 2.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), a district court may review the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. The ALJ's findings and decision should be upheld if they are free from legal error and are supported by substantial evidence based on the record as a whole. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Richardson v. Perales , 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Parra v. Astrue , 481 F.3d 742, 746 (9th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence means such relevant evidence as a reasonable person might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Richardson , 402 U.S. at 401; Lingenfelter v. Astrue , 504 F.3d 1028, 1035 (9th Cir. 2007). It is more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance. Lingenfelter , 504 F.3d at 1035 (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 reasonably support either affirming or reversing, " the reviewing court "may not substitute its judgment" for that of the Commissioner. Id. at 720-721.
A. The ALJ Erred in Failing to Determine ...