United States District Court, C.D. California
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
ROZELLA A. OLIVER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Diana Arredondo (“Plaintiff”) challenges the
Commissioner’s denial of her application for a period
of disability and disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”). For the reasons stated below, the
decision of the Commissioner is REVERSED and the action is
REMANDED for further proceedings consistent with this Order.
24, 2012, Plaintiff applied for DIB alleging disability
beginning September 27, 2011. (Administrative Record
(“AR”) 150-56). Her application was
denied initially on December 17, 2012, and upon
reconsideration on June 21, 2013. (AR 54-78.) On July 22,
2013, Plaintiff filed a written request for hearing, and a
hearing was held on February 11, 2014. (AR 32-53, 100-01.)
Represented by counsel, Plaintiff appeared and testified,
along with an impartial medical expert and an impartial
vocational expert (“VE”). (AR 35-52.) On April
10, 2014, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
found that Plaintiff had not been under a disability,
pursuant to the Social Security Act,  since September 27, 2011.
(AR 16.) 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 September 20, 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 September 27,
2011, the alleged onset date (“AOD”). (AR 12.) At
step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has the severe
impairments of degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine;
type II diabetes; and obesity. (Id.) 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.”
proceeding to step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to:
[P]erform a wide range of light work . . ., except the
claimant is limited to lifting-carrying 20 pounds
occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; is limited to sitting
six hours and standing-walking six hours in an eight-hour
workday with normal breaks; must be allowed to change
position at the work station for one to three minutes every
hour; and is limited to climbing ramps and stairs, bending,
balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, and crawling
occasionally, but can never climb ladders, ropes, and
scaffolding; and must avoid concentrated exposure to
unprotected heights and dangerous or fast moving machines.
four, based on Plaintiff’s RFC and the VE’s
testimony, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is capable of
performing past relevant work in medical billing and
collections. (AR 16.) 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. (Id.)
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)).
contends that the ALJ: (1) failed to properly consider the
opinion of treating physician Harry L. Gibson, M.D.; (2)
failed to make proper credibility findings; and (3) failed to
properly assess her RFC. (Joint Stipulation for Social
Security (“Joint Stip.”) at 3-5, 7-14, 18-20,
Dkt. No. 23.) The Commissioner contends that: (1) any error
in not addressing Dr. Gibson’s opinion was harmless;
(2) the ALJ properly discounted Plaintiff’s
credibility; and (3) even if the RFC included the limitations
assessed by Dr. Gibson, the VE testified that Plaintiff could
perform other work. (Joint Stip. at 5-7, 14-18, 20-21.)
The ALJ Erred In Not Considering Dr. Gibson’s
argues that the ALJ “completely ignore[d]” Dr.
Gibson’s opinion that she could not lift over five
pounds and that she requires a walker as an assistive device,
and that the ALJ failed to provide specific and legitimate
reasons, supported by substantial evidence for rejecting Dr.
Gibson’s opinion. (Joint Stip. at 3-5.) The
Commissioner argues that any error in not addressing Dr.
Gibson’s opinion was harmless. (Id. at 5-7.)
For the reasons set forth below, the Court agrees with