United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND REMANDING FOR FURTHER ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS
PAUL S. GREWAL, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff Yvette Villereal Mancillas appeals the decision by Defendant Carolyn Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, denying her supplemental security income disability benefits. Mancillas moves for summary judgment. The Commissioner opposes the motion and cross-moves for summary judgment. The matter was submitted without oral argument pursuant to Civ. L.R. 16-5. Having reviewed the papers, the court DENIES Mancillas' motion for summary judgment, DENIES the Commissioner's cross-motion for summary judgment, and REMANDS for further administrative proceedings.
The following facts are taken from the decision by the ALJ and the accompanying administrative record. Mancillas was born July 23, 1967. She has completed the eleventh grade and does not have a GED. She has minimal work history; she has worked for brief periods during two of the past 15 years and has not worked at all since 2001. Mancillas alleges that she has been disabled since April 1, 1998 by back, hip and leg pain resulting from spina bifida occulta and scoliosis and by emotional problems resulting from depression and bipolar II disorder. Mancillas applied for disability benefits on September 8, 2010. Her application was denied upon initial review and upon reconsideration. She then requested a hearing before an ALJ.
A. The ALJ Held a Hearing on Mancillas' Present Claim
The ALJ held a hearing on March 6, 2012. Mancillas appeared at the hearing with her counsel. She testified that she suffered from constant and worsening back, hip and leg pain. The pain limited her ability to walk, stand and sit comfortably, and she required a cane to balance when standing upright. She further testified that she suffered from emotional problems, including depression and moodiness.
Mancillas submitted her prison medical records from 2000 and 2001. She explained that she obtained prescription pain medication from the emergency room because she was unaware of her eligibility for health insurance. Four health assessments were submitted into evidence - one physical Consultative Evaluation completed by Dr. Wood, one psychological CE completed by Dr. Dahl, one physical Residual Functional Capacity assessment completed by Dr. Quint and one psychological RFC assessment completed by Dr. Rabinowitz - but no medical professionals testified. The ALJ took the case under submission.
B. The ALJ Concluded That Mancillas Has The RFC To Perform Sedentary Work and Thus Is Not Disabled
The ALJ issued his decision on May 9, 2012. Pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a), the ALJ conducted a five-step, sequential evaluation process for determining whether an individual is disabled. At step one, the ALJ found that Mancillas had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her application date, August 30, 2010. At step two, the ALJ found that Mancillas' spina bifida was a severe impairment but that her "medically determinable impairment of bipolar II disorder" was not. At step three, the ALJ found that her spina bifida, though severe, did not meet or medically equal the severity of any of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. § 404app. 1. At step four, the ALJ found that Mancillas had the RFC to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(a). Finally, at step five, the ALJ found that based on her age, education, work experience, RFC and the directives of the medical-vocational guidelines (the "grids"), Mancillas was not disabled. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that she did not qualify for supplemental security income disability benefits. Mancillas then appealed the ALJ's decision to the Appeals Council.
C. Mancillas Submitted Additional Evidence to The Appeals Council
On September 19, 2012, Mancillas obtained an additional RFC assessment completed by a therapist, Eduardo Marcus, and co-signed by a psychiatrist, Dr. Fernandez. In the assessment, Marcus stated that he began treating Mancillas on May 1, 2012. He diagnosed Mancillas with major depressive disorder and opined that her mental state seriously limited or precluded her ability to perform various work-related tasks.
On November 26, 2012, Mancillas submitted the assessment to the Appeals Council, which was then considering her request for review. On April 4, 2013, the Appeals Council denied her request for review. In doing so, the Appeals Council "looked at" the new assessment but declined to consider it, stating that it pertained to a period after the ALJ decided the case.
II. LEGAL STANDARDS
A. Standard for Reviewing The ...