United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER REMANDING THE ACTION PURSUANT TO SENTENCE FOUR
OF 42 U.S.C. § 405(G) ORDER DIRECTING ENTRY OF JUDGMENT
IN FAVOR OF PLAINTIFF RICHARD HARLAN AND AGAINST DEFENDANT
NANCY BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL
JENNIFER L. THURSTON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Harlan was found previously to be disabled by the Social
Security Administration. However, he asserts the
administrative law judge erred in determining the date he
became disabled. Because the ALJ failed to call a medical
expert to determine the onset date of Plaintiff's
disability, 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 he became disabled in
September 2007 due to left arm pain, hand/shoulder pain, back
pain, and mental illness. (Doc. 9-3 at 14; Doc. 9-6 at 2, 13)
The Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's
applications at both the initial level and upon
reconsideration. (See generally Doc. 9-4; Doc. 9-3
requesting a hearing, Plaintiff testified before an ALJ on
May 6, 2014. (Doc. 9-3 at 14, 35) The ALJ issued a partially
favorable decision on September 12, 2014. (See Doc.
9-3 at 10-26) Specifically, the ALJ concluded Plaintiff
“was not disabled prior to December 14, 2013, but
became disabled on that date and… continued to be
disabled through the date of [the] decision.”
(Id. at 25) When the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review of the decision on October
23, 2015 (id. at 2-4), the ALJ's findings became
the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security.
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.
42 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).
achieve uniform decisions, the Commissioner established a
sequential five-step process for evaluating a claimant's
alleged disability. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520,
416.920(a)-(f). The process requires the ALJ to determine
whether Plaintiff (1) engaged in substantial gainful activity
during the period of alleged disability, (2) had medically
determinable severe impairments (3) that met or equaled one
of the listed impairments set forth in 20 C.F.R. § 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1; and whether Plaintiff (4) had the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform
to past relevant work or (5) the ability to perform other