United States District Court, E.D. California
DENYING THE COMMISSIONER'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
AND REMANDING THE ACTION PURSUANT TO SENTENCE FOUR OF 42
U.S.C. § 405(g)ORDER DIRECTING ENTRY OF JUDGMENT IN
FAVOR OF PLAINTIFF TONI MATTICE AND AGAINST DEFENDANT NANCY
BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY
JENNIFER L. THURSTON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Mattice was previously found disabled by the Social Security
Administration, and asserts the administrative law judge
erred in determining the date she became disabled. Because
the ALJ failed to call a medical expert to determine the
onset date of Plaintiff's disability, the
Commissioner's motion for summary judgment is DENIED and
the matter is REMANDED for further proceedings pursuant to
sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
filed applications for a period of disability, disability
insurance benefits, and supplemental security income pursuant
to Titles II and XVI, alleging she became disabled in 2006
due to left arm pain, hand/shoulder pain, back pain, and
mental illness. (Doc. 10-3 at 14; Doc. 10-6 at 2, 14; Doc.
10-4 at 2) The Social Security Administration denied
Plaintiff's applications at both the initial level and
upon reconsideration. (See generally Doc. 10-4; Doc.
10-3 at 14)
requesting a hearing, Plaintiff testified before an ALJ on
February 11, 2014. (Doc. 10-3 at 14, 35) The ALJ issued a
partially favorable decision on April 11, 2014. (See
Doc. 10-3 at 10-27) Specifically, the ALJ concluded Plaintiff
“was not disabled prior to November 1, 2012, but became
disabled on that date and… continued to be disabled
through the date of [the] decision.” (Id. at
26) When the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for review of the decision on September 29, 2015
(id. at 2-4), the ALJ's findings became the
final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security.
initiated this action by filing a complaint on November 30,
2015, asserting the ALJ erred in determining her disability
onset date. (Docs. 1, 16) The Commissioner seeks summary
judgment, arguing the Commissioner's decision is
supported by substantial evidence in the record. (Doc. 17)
courts have a limited scope of judicial review for disability
claims after a decision by the Commissioner to deny benefits
under the Social Security Act. When reviewing findings of
fact, such as whether a claimant was disabled, the Court must
determine whether the Commissioner's decision is
supported by substantial evidence or is based on legal error.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The ALJ's determination that the
claimant is not disabled must be upheld by the Court if the
proper legal standards were applied and the findings are
supported by substantial evidence. See Sanchez v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Serv., 812 F.2d 509, 510
(9th Cir. 1987).
evidence is “more than a mere scintilla. It means such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (quoting Consol.
Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197 (1938)). The record as
a whole must be considered, because “[t]he court must
consider both evidence that supports and evidence that
detracts from the ALJ's conclusion.” Jones v.
Heckler, 760 F.2d 993, 995 (9th Cir. 1985).
qualify for benefits under the Social Security Act, Plaintiff
must establish he is unable to engage in substantial gainful
activity due to a medically determinable physical or mental
impairment that has lasted or can be expected to last for a
continuous period of not less than 12 months. 42 U.S.C.
§ 1382c(a)(3)(A). An individual shall be considered to
have a disability only if:
his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such
severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work,
but cannot, considering his age, education, and work
experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful
work which exists in the national economy, regardless of
whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he
lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or
whether he would be hired if he applied for work.
U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(B). The burden of proof is on a
claimant to establish disability. Terry v. Sullivan,
903 F.2d 1273, 1275 (9th Cir. 1990). If a claimant
establishes a prima facie case of disability, the burden
shifts to the Commissioner to prove the claimant is able to
engage in other substantial gainful employment. Maounois
v. Heckler, 738 F.2d 1032, 1034 (9th Cir. 1984).