United States District Court, E.D. California
DEBORAH BARNES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
social security action was submitted to the court without
oral argument for ruling on plaintiff's motion for
summary judgment and defendant's cross-motion for summary
judgment.Plaintiff's motion argues that the
Administrative Law Judge's step two finding, treatment of
the medical opinion evidence, treatment of plaintiff's
subjective testimony, and treatment of Social Security Ruling
00-4p constituted error. For the reasons explained below,
plaintiff's motion is granted in part, the decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) is reversed, and the matter is
remanded for further proceedings.
November of 2011, plaintiff filed applications for Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the
Social Security Act (“the Act”) and for
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title
XVI of the Act alleging disability beginning on August 2,
2010.(Transcript (“Tr.”) at 20,
193-206.) Plaintiff's applications were denied initially,
(id. at 130-33), and upon reconsideration.
(Id. at 136-40.)
plaintiff requested a hearing which was held before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on October 15,
2013. (Id. at 46-100.) Plaintiff was represented by
an attorney and testified at the administrative hearing.
(Id. at 46-47.) In a decision issued on February 28,
2014, the ALJ found that plaintiff was not disabled.
(Id. at 30.) The ALJ entered the following findings:
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through December 31, 2015.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since July 28, 2010, the alleged onset date (20 CFR
404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
obesity, diabetes, degenerative joint disease, and adjustment
disorder with depression and anxiety (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and
4. The claimant 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 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526,
416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, I find
that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to
perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and
416.967(a) with the following exceptions: The claimant can
occasionally climb ramps and stairs, but cannot climb
ladders, ropes or scaffolds. She can also occasionally
balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl; and reach, handle,
finger, or feel with her left upper extremity. The claimant
requires the option to sit or stand, changing positions at
her workstation two to three times per hour. She can perform
simple, repetitive tasks. Further, she can occasionally
interact with the public, and frequently interact with
supervisors and co-workers.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work
(20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. The claimant was born on October 6, 1967 and was 42 years
old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-44, on
the alleged disability onset date. The claimant subsequently
changed age category to a younger individual age 45-49 (20
CFR 404.1563 and 416.963).
8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is
able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564 and 416.964).
9. Transferability of job skills is not material to the
determination of disability because using the
Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding
that the claimant is “not disabled, ” whether or
not the claimant has transferable job skills (See SSR 82-41
and 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).
10. Considering the claimant's age, education, work
experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy
that the claimant can perform (20 CFR 404.1569, 404.1569(a),
416.969, and 416.969(a)).
11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, from July 28, 2010, through the
date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(g) and 416.920(g)).
(Id. at 22-30.)
19, 2015, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request
for review of the ALJ's February 28, 2014 decision.
(Id. at 4-6.) Plaintiff sought judicial review
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) by filing the complaint
in this action on January 6, 2016. (ECF No. 1.)
district court reviews the Commissioner's final decision
for substantial evidence, and the Commissioner's decision
will be disturbed only if it is not supported by substantial
evidence or is based on legal error.” Hill v.
Astrue, 698 F.3d 1153, 1158-59 (9th Cir. 2012).
Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion. Osenbrock v. Apfel, 240 F.3d 1157, 1162
(9th Cir. 2001); Sandgathe v. Chater, 108 F.3d 978,
980 (9th Cir. 1997).
reviewing court must consider the entire record as a whole
and may not affirm simply by isolating a ‘specific
quantum of supporting evidence.'” Robbins v.
Soc. Sec. Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006)
(quoting Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th
Cir. 1989)). If, however, “the record considered as a
whole can reasonably support either affirming or reversing
the Commissioner's decision, we must affirm.”
McCartey v. Massanari, 298 F.3d 1072, 1075 (9th Cir.
five-step evaluation process is used to determine whether a
claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520; see also
Parra v. Astrue, 481 F.3d 742, 746 (9th Cir. 2007). The
five-step process has been summarized as follows:
Step one: Is the claimant engaging in substantial gainful
activity? If so, the claimant is found not disabled. If not,
proceed to step two.
Step two: Does the claimant have a “severe”
impairment? If so, proceed to step three. If not, then a
finding of not disabled is appropriate.
Step three: Does the claimant's impairment or combination
of impairments meet or equal an impairment listed in 20
C.F.R., Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1? If so, the claimant is
automatically determined disabled. If not, proceed to step
Step four: Is the claimant capable of performing his past
work? If so, the claimant is not disabled. If not, proceed to
Step five: Does the claimant have the residual functional
capacity to perform any other work? If so, the claimant is
not disabled. If not, the claimant is disabled.
Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 828 n.5 (9th Cir.
claimant bears the burden of proof in the first four steps of
the sequential evaluation process. Bowen v. Yuckert,
482 U.S. 137, 146 n. 5 (1987). The Commissioner bears the
burden if the sequential evaluation process proceeds to step