United States District Court, C.D. California, Western Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
DOUGLAS F. McCORMICK, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Robbin Keith Jerro (“Plaintiff”) appeals from the
final decision of the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) denying his applications for disability
insurance benefits and supplemental security income benefits.
On appeal, the Court concludes that the ALJ erred in
determining that Plaintiff did not overcome the presumption
of continuing nondisability. Therefore, the ALJ’s
decision is reversed and the matter is remanded for further
proceedings consistent with this opinion.
filed initial applications for Social Security disability
insurance benefits and supplemental security income benefits
on June 16, 2010 and June 17, 2010, respectively.
Administrative Record (“AR”) 104. In both
applications Plaintiff alleged disability beginning February
2, 2010. AR 104. Plaintiff’s applications were denied
and a hearing by an ALJ was held. On November 10, 2011, ALJ
Sally Reason (“Judge Reason”) issued an
unfavorable decision. AR 104-12. Judge Reason found that
Plaintiff had the severe impairments of back pain, shoulder
pain status post removal of lipoma, and depression. AR 106.
Judge Reason also found that Plaintiff did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the severity of a listed impairment. AR
107. Judge Reason determined that Plaintiff had the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform medium
work with some postural restrictions so long as he was
limited to unskilled work with limited social or public
contact. AR 108. Accordingly, Judge Reason determined that
Plaintiff was capable of performing his past relevant work as
a hospital housekeeper. AR 111. That decision was not
appealed and became final.
subsequently filed applications for disability insurance
benefits and supplemental security income benefits on January
23, 2012, and February 1, 2012, respectively. AR 251-59.
Plaintiff alleged the same February 2010 onset date as in his
2010 applications. AR 251, 253. On January 17, 2014, a second
ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. AR 24-43. Because the
alleged onset date included a period that was previously
adjudicated, and Plaintiff was found not disabled, the ALJ
evaluated Plaintiff’s alleged disability from November
11, 2011, the date of the previous unfavorable decision. AR
42. In reaching his decision, the ALJ incorporated Judge
Reason’s findings and found that Plaintiff had the
severe medically determinable impairments of back pain with
diagnostic imaging evidence of degenerative changes of the
lumbar spine; shoulder pain, status post removal of lipoma;
and depressive disorder. AR 32. The ALJ likewise determined
that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one
of the listed impairments. AR 33. The ALJ also found that
Plaintiff failed to establish a “change in
circumstances” sufficient to overcome the presumption
of continuing nondisability; as a result, the ALJ applied
Judge Reason’s RFC. See AR 36 (“I must
adopt Judge Reason’s [RFC assessment]”).
Accordingly, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff could perform
his past relevant work. AR 41-42.
parties dispute whether the ALJ properly determined that
Plaintiff did not overcome the presumption of continuing
nondisability. See Joint Stipulation
(“JS”) at 4-20.
contends that the ALJ should have found that he rebutted the
presumption of continuing nondisability arising from Judge
Reason’s adverse decision. JS at 4-9. Specifically,
Plaintiff contends that his schizoaffective disorder was a
“new impairment” that Judge Reason did not
consider. Id. at 7-9. As a result, Plaintiff argues,
the second ALJ should not have relied on and incorporated
Judge Reason’s findings. Id. at 8-9. The Court
principles of res judicata apply to an administrative
decision if “a previous determination or decision . . .
about [a claimant’s] rights on the same facts and on
the same issue or issues . . . has become final by either
administrative or judicial action.” 20 C.F.R
§§ 404.957(c)(1), 416.1457(c)(1). A previous final
determination of nondisability creates a presumption of
continuing nondisability with respect to any subsequent
unadjudicated period of alleged disability. See Chavez v.
Bowen, 844 F.2d 691, 693 (9th Cir. 1988); Lester v.
Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 827 (9th Cir. 1996) (as amended);
Social Security Acquiescence Ruling (“SSAR”)
97-4(9), 1997 WL 742758.
presumption may be overcome by a showing of “changed
circumstances.” Chavez, 844 F.2d at 693;
Taylor v. Heckler, 765 F.2d 872, 875 (9th Cir.
1985). To show “changed circumstances, ” the
evidence must establish that the claimant suffers from an
impairment that indicates a greater disability since the
prior decision denying benefits. Chavez, 844 F.2d at
693. Changed circumstances may include “a change in the
claimant’s age category . . ., an increase in the
severity of the claimant’s impairment(s), the alleged
existence of an impairment(s) not previously considered, or a
change in the criteria for determining disability.”
SSAR 97-4(9), 1997 WL 742758, at *3.
Plaintiff Presented Sufficient Evidence to Rebut the
Presumption of Continuing Nondisability
record contains significant evidence that Plaintiff had
additional mental impairments beyond depression at the time
of the second ALJ’s decision. On December 2, 2011,
Plaintiff was diagnosed with severe major depressive disorder
with psychotic features including audio and visual
hallucinations. AR 420. The assessment from West Valley
Medical Center also noted that Plaintiff’s symptoms
have impaired his ability to “maintain residence,
employment, daily living, social activities, health.”
Id. On November 1, 2012, Plaintiff was diagnosed
with schizoaffective disorder. AR 415. On September 4, 2013,
another assessment from West Valley Medical Center noted a
diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, negative auditory
hallucinations that commanded Plaintiff to hurt himself or
others, auditory hallucinations that consisted of multiple
voices at times conversing with each other and carrying on
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