United States District Court, C.D. California, Western Division
SANDRA K. MANNING, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
DOUGLAS F. McCORMICK, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff appeals from the denial of her application for Social Security benefits. On appeal, the Court concludes that the administrative law judge ("ALJ") erred in determining that Plaintiff was capable of performing her past relevant work as an assembler. Therefore, the Court reverses the ALJ's decision and remands to the ALJ for further proceedings.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Plaintiff filed applications for social security disability insurance ("SSDI") benefits, alleging disability beginning May 25, 2005. Administrative Record ("AR") 15. Following a hearing at which a medical expert ("ME") testified, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work with numerous limitations, including a limitation to occasional balancing, stooping, kneeling, and crouching. AR 19. The ALJ then concluded, without the benefit of testimony from a vocational expert ("VE"), that Plaintiff was capable of performing her past relevant work as an assembler, as that work is generally performed. AR 29.
Plaintiff's arguments for reversing the ALJ's decision are not completely coherent, and do not neatly correspond to the two Disputed Issues identified in the parties' Joint Stipulation ("JS"). As best the Court can discern, Plaintiff offers two basic contentions: (1) in the first portion of Disputed Issue 1 and throughout Disputed Issue 2, Plaintiff argues that, given the ALJ's RFC assessment, the ALJ improperly determined that Plaintiff was capable of performing her prior work as an assembler, see JS at 5-7, 23-30, 33; and (2) in the latter portion of Disputed Issue 1, Plaintiff contends that the ALJ was required to include a restriction to simple one or two step tasks in his RFC assessment, see JS at 7-11, 24-25.
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 Court may not substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ. Tackett v. Apfel , 180 F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th Cir. 1999).
Plaintiff contends that the ALJ erred at step four of the sequential disability evaluation process when he determined that Plaintiff retained the residual capacity to perform her prior work as an assembler, as that work is generally performed. See JS at 5-7, 23-30, 33. Plaintiff's argument is based on her contention that the stooping, overhead reaching, reasoning, and positional limitations contained in the ALJ's RFC assessment conflict with the description of the assembler job that is contained in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles ("DOT"). Id . Because the Court finds ...