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Harmon v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. California

September 19, 2014

KIM R. HARMON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

ORDER

DALE A. DROZD, Magistrate Judge.

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, 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.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On May 11, 2010, plaintiff filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act ("the Act"), alleging disability beginning on November 5, 2009. (Transcript ("Tr.") at 14, 104-05.) Plaintiff's application was denied initially, (id. at 64-67), and upon reconsideration. (Id. at 72-76.) Plaintiff requested a hearing and a hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") on March 21, 2012. (Id. at 25-44.) Plaintiff was represented by an attorney and testified at the administrative hearing. (Id. at 25-26.) In a decision issued on March 29, 2012, the ALJ found that plaintiff was not disabled. (Id. at 21.) The ALJ entered the following findings:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2013.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since November 5, 2009, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq. ).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the cervical and lumbar spine; and myofascial neck sprain with chronic spasms (20 CFR 404.1520(c)).
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525, and 404.1526).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) except: she could lift, carry, push, and/or pull 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently; she could stand and/or walk for about 6 hours in an 8-hour workday, with normal breaks; she could sit for about 6 hours in an 8-hour workday, with normal breaks; she could frequently perform postural activities, except that she could occasionally climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds; and she could occasionally reach overhead bilaterally.
6. The claimant is capable of performing past relevant work as a homeless shelter case manager/counselor, an immigration agency advocate and director, a chemical dependency counselor, a bookkeeper, and a bookstore sales clerk. This work does not require the performance of work-related activities precluded by the claimant's residual functional capacity (20 CFR 404.1565).
7. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from November 5, 2009, through the date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(f)).

(Id. at 16-21.)

On April 11, 2013, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's March 29, 2012 decision. (Id. at 6-8.) After plaintiff was granted an extension of time to file a civil action, (id. at 1), plaintiff sought judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) by filing the complaint in this action on July 10, 2013.

LEGAL STANDARD

"The district court reviews the Commissioner's final decision for substantial evidence, and the Commissioner's decision will be disturbed only if it is not supported by substantial evidence or is based on legal error." Hill v. Astrue , 698 F.3d 1153, 1158-59 (9th Cir. 2012). 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); Sandgathe v. Chater , 108 F.3d 978, 980 (9th Cir. 1997).

"[A] reviewing court must consider the entire record as a whole and may not affirm simply by isolating a specific quantum of supporting evidence.'" Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin. , 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006) (quoting Hammock v. Bowen , 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989)). If, however, "the record considered as a whole can reasonably support either affirming or reversing the Commissioner's decision, we must affirm." McCartey v. Massanari , 298 F.3d 1072, 1075 (9th Cir. 2002).

A five-step evaluation process is used to determine whether a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520; see also Parra v. Astrue , 481 F.3d 742, 746 (9th Cir. 2007). The ...


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