United States District Court, C.D. California
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
ROZELLA A. OLIVER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Deborah Devery (“Plaintiff”) challenges the
Commissioner’s denial of her applications for a period
of disability and disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) and supplemental security income
(“SSI”). For the reasons stated below, the
decision of the Commissioner is REVERSED and the action is
REMANDED for further proceedings consistent with this Order.
September 13, 2012, Plaintiff applied for DBI and SSI
alleging disability beginning June 15, 2010 (her alleged
onset date (“AOD”)). (Administrative Record
(“AR”) 181-97). Her applications were
denied initially on March 5, 2013, and upon reconsideration
on September 27, 2013. (AR 55-106.) On October 16, 2013,
Plaintiff filed a written request for hearing, and a hearing
was held on April 30, 2014. (AR 34-54, 124-25.) Represented
by counsel, Plaintiff appeared and testified, along with an
impartial vocational expert. (AR 34-54.) On August 28, 2014,
the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found that
Plaintiff had not been under a disability, pursuant to the
Social Security Act,  from the AOD through the decision date.
(AR 28.) The ALJ’s decision became the
Commissioner’s final decision when the Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff’s request for review. (AR 1-4.)
Plaintiff filed this action on October 30, 2015. (Dkt. No.
followed a five-step sequential evaluation process to assess
whether Plaintiff was disabled under the Social Security Act.
Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 828 n.5 (9th Cir.
1995). At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since the AOD. (AR
11.) At step two, the ALJ found that from the AOD to December
31, 2012, Plaintiff has the medically determinable
impairments of dysthymia; and left thumb and left elbow pain,
but she does not have a severe impairment. (AR 12.) From
January 1, 2013 to the present, Plaintiff has the following
severe impairments: arthralgia; chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease (COPD); depressive disorder, not otherwise specified
(NOS); and anxiety disorder. (AR 15.) At step three, the ALJ
found that Plaintiff “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.” (Id.)
proceeding to step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to:
[P]erform medium work . . . . [S]he can lift and carry no
more than 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently;
she has unlimited sitting abilities; she can stand and walk
six hours total in an eight-hour workday and must be able to
alternate sitting and standing briefly every two hours with
normal breaks. She would also have non-exertional mental
limitations as follows: she can understand and remember
simple routine tasks; carry out short and simple
instructions; make judgments and decisions consistent with
simple routine duties; she can carry out detailed
instructions on an occasional basis; and she would have a
little difficulty in reacting and responding to supervisors,
co-workers, and the public - limited to occasional contact
with those individuals.
four, based on Plaintiff’s RFC and the VE’s
testimony, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is capable of
performing past relevant work as a Cleaner, Commercial or
Institutional, and Tow-Truck Operator (driver). (AR 27.)
Accordingly, the ALJ did not proceed to step five, and
instead, found that Plaintiff has not been under a disability
from the AOD through the date of the ALJ’s decision.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
42 U.S.C. § 405(g), a district court may review the
Commissioner’s decision to deny benefits. A court must
affirm an ALJ’s findings of fact if they are supported
by substantial evidence, and if the proper legal standards
were applied. Mayes v. Massanari, 276 F.3d 453,
458-59 (9th Cir. 2001). “‘Substantial
evidence’ means more than a mere scintilla, but less
than a preponderance; it is such relevant evidence as a
reasonable person might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Lingenfelter v. Astrue, 504 F.3d
1028, 1035 (9th Cir. 2007) (citing Robbins v. Soc. Sec.
Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006)). An ALJ can
satisfy the substantial evidence requirement “by
setting out a detailed and thorough summary of the facts and
conflicting clinical evidence, stating his interpretation
thereof, and making findings.” Reddick v.
Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 725 (9th Cir. 1998) (citation
Commissioner's decision cannot be affirmed simply by
isolating a specific quantum of supporting evidence. Rather,
a court must consider the record as a whole, weighing both
evidence that supports and evidence that detracts from the
Secretary’s conclusion.” Aukland v.
Massanari, 257 F.3d 1033, 1035 (9th Cir. 2001)
(citations and internal quotations omitted).
“‘Where evidence is susceptible to more than one
rational interpretation, ’ the ALJ's decision
should be upheld.” Ryan v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 528 F.3d 1194, 1198 (9th Cir. 2008) (citing
Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir.
2005)); see also Robbins, 466 F.3d at 882 (“If
the evidence can support either affirming or reversing the
ALJ's conclusion, we may not substitute our judgment for
that of the ALJ.”). The Court may review only
“the reasons provided by the ALJ in the disability
determination and may not affirm the ALJ on a ground upon
which he did not rely.” Orn v. Astrue, 495
F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007) (citing Connett v.
Barnhart, 340 F.3d 871, 874 (9th Cir. 2003)).