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Davis v. Berryhill

United States District Court, C.D. California

April 19, 2017

LYDIA J. DAVIS, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.



         Pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. section 405(g), IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiff's and Defendant's motions for summary judgment are denied, and this matter is remanded for further administrative action consistent with this Opinion.


         On November 8, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Complaint seeking review of the Commissioner's denial of disability benefits. On December 14, 2016, the parties consented to a Magistrate Judge. On March 21, 2017, Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment. On April 12, 2017, Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment. The Court has taken the motions for summary judgment under submission without oral argument. See L.R. 7-15; “Order, ” filed November 22, 2016.


         Plaintiff asserts disability based on a combination of alleged impairments (Administrative Record (“A.R.”) 56-58, 183, 292-93). The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found Plaintiff suffers from severe impairments which preclude the performance of Plaintiff's past relevant work and which reduce Plaintiff's residual functional capacity to the “capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(a)” (A.R. 24, 26, 33).[1]

         To determine whether there exist any jobs Plaintiff can perform, the ALJ consulted a vocational expert and used Rules 201.15 and 201.07 of the Grids as “the framework” for decision making (A.R. 34-35, 68-73). In response to a hypothetical question which assumed the residual functional capacity found by the ALJ, the vocational expert identified only one job, the sedentary job of “data entry, ” as a job a person so limited could perform (A.R. 68-72). The vocational expert also opined that Plaintiff's skill in “inputting information from a numerical or alphabetical [sic] into a computer utilizing a keyboard” would transfer to the “data entry” job (A.R. 72-73). The ALJ did not ask the vocational expert whether any vocational adjustment would be required to transfer Plaintiff's skill from her past relevant work to the “data entry” job.

         In denying disability, the ALJ concluded Plaintiff could perform the “data entry” job and Plaintiff's skill in “inputting information, numerical or letters, into the computer with use of a keyboard” would transfer thereto (A.R. 34). The ALJ did not make any finding regarding whether any vocational adjustment would be required. Plaintiff was 55 years old at the time of the ALJ's decision (A.R. 35, 183). The Appeals Council considered additional evidence, but denied review (A.R. 1-6).


         Under 42 U.S.C. section 405(g), this Court reviews the Administration's decision to determine if: (1) the Administration's findings are supported by substantial evidence; and (2) the Administration used correct legal standards. See Carmickle v. Commissioner, 533 F.3d 1155, 1159 (9th Cir. 2008); Hoopai v. Astrue, 499 F.3d 1071, 1074 (9th Cir. 2007); see also Brewes v. Commissioner of Social Sec. Admin., 682 F.3d 1157, 1161 (9th Cir. 2012). Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (citation and quotations omitted); see Widmark v. Barnhart, 454 F.3d 1063, 1066 (9th Cir. 2006).

If the evidence can support either outcome, the court may not substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ. But the 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 [administrative] conclusion.

Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th Cir. 1999) (citations and quotations omitted).

         Where, as here, the Appeals Council considered additional evidence but denied review, the additional evidence becomes part of the record for purposes of the Court's analysis. See Brewes v. Commissioner, 682 F.3d at 1163 (“[W]hen the Appeals Council considers new evidence in deciding whether to review a decision of the ALJ, that evidence becomes part of the administrative record, which the district court must consider when reviewing the Commissioner's final decision for substantial evidence”; expressly adopting Ramirez v. Shalala, 8 F.3d 1449, 1452 (9th Cir. 1993)); Taylor v. Commissioner, 659 F.3d 1228, 1231 (2011) (courts may consider evidence presented for the first time to the Appeals Council “to determine whether, in light of the record as a whole, the ALJ's decision was supported by substantial evidence and was free of legal error”); Penny v. Sullivan, 2 ...

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