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Evans v. Colvin

United States District Court, C.D. California

March 12, 2015

VAUGHN EVANS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER REVERSING DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY

JOHN E. McDERMOTT, Magistrate Judge.

PROCEEDINGS

On July 1, 2014, Vaughn Evans ("Plaintiff" or "Claimant") filed a complaint seeking review of the decision by the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying Plaintiff's application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") benefits. The Commissioner filed an Answer on October 22, 2014. On March 3, 2015, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS"). The matter is now ready for decision.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), both parties consented to proceed before this Magistrate Judge. After reviewing the pleadings, transcripts, and administrative record ("AR"), the Court concludes that the Commissioner's decision must be reversed and this case remanded for further proceedings in accordance with this Memorandum Opinion and Order and with law.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is a 38-year-old male who applied for Supplemental Security Income benefits on April 29, 2011. (AR 15.) The ALJ determined that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 29, 2011, the application date. (AR 17.)

Plaintiff's claim was denied initially on September 9, 2011. (AR 15.) Plaintiff filed a timely request for hearing, which was held before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Alexander Weir, III on May 8, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (AR 15.) Claimant appeared and testified at the hearing and was represented by counsel. (AR 15.) Vocational expert ("VE") Sandra Trost also appeared and testified at the hearing. (AR 15.)

The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on June 15, 2012. (AR 15-25.) The Appeals Council denied review on May 2, 2014. (AR 1-3.)

DISPUTED ISSUES

As reflected in the Joint Stipulation, Plaintiff raises the following disputed issues as grounds for reversal and remand:

1. Whether the ALJ had a substantial basis for finding the existence of past relevant work.
2. Whether the ALJ properly considered the evidence of mental impairment and limitations.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the ALJ's decision to determine whether the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence and free of legal error. Smolen v. Chater , 80 F.3d 1273, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996); see also DeLorme v. Sullivan , 924 F.2d 841, 846 (9th Cir. 1991) (ALJ's disability determination must be supported by substantial evidence and based on the proper legal standards).

Substantial evidence means "more than a mere scintilla, ' but less than a preponderance." Saelee v. Chater , 94 F.3d 520, 521-22 (9th Cir. 1996) (quoting Richardson v. Perales , 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson , 402 U.S. at 401 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

This Court must review the record as a whole and consider adverse as well as supporting evidence. Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin. , 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006). Where evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the ALJ's decision must be upheld. Morgan v. Comm'r of the Soc. Sec. Admin. , 169 F.3d 595, 599 (9th Cir. 1999). "However, 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 , 466 ...


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