United States District Court, C.D. California
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER REVERSING DECISION OF
COMMISSIONER AND REMANDING FOR FURTHER ADMINISTRATIVE
ALEXANDER F. MacKINNON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Sheila Jeanette Stephens protectively filed her application
for disability benefits under Title II of the Social Security
Act on June 6, 2012. After denial on initial review and on
reconsideration, a video hearing took place before an
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) on October 14, 2014, at which
Plaintiff testified on her own behalf. In a decision dated
January 9, 2015, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not
disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act for
the period beginning January 3, 2012 through the date of the
decision. The Appeals Council declined to set aside the
ALJ's unfavorable decision in a notice dated April 1,
2016. Plaintiff filed a Complaint herein on April 21, 2016,
seeking review of the Commissioner's denial of her
application for benefits.
accordance with the Court's Order Re: Procedures in
Social Security Appeal, Plaintiff filed a memorandum in
support of the complaint on October 17, 2016 (“Pl.
Mem.”) and the Commissioner filed a memorandum in
support of her answer on November 17, 2016 (“Def.
Mem.”). Plaintiff did not file a reply. This matter now
is ready for decision.
reflected in the parties' memoranda, the disputed issue
is whether the ALJ properly considered the opinion of the
medical expert Dr. Alpern and fully developed the record.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court reviews the
Commissioner's decision to determine whether the
Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial
evidence and whether the proper legal standards were applied.
See Treichler v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 775
F.3d 1090, 1098 (9th Cir. 2014). Substantial evidence means
“more than a mere scintilla” but less than a
preponderance. See Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S.
389, 401 (1971); Lingenfelter v. Astrue, 504 F.3d
1028, 1035 (9th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence is
“such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401. This Court must review
the record as a whole, weighing both the evidence that
supports and the evidence that detracts from the
Commissioner's conclusion. Lingenfelter, 504
F.3d at 1035. Where evidence is susceptible of more than one
rational interpretation, the Commissioner's decision must
be upheld. See Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th
in a social security determination is subject to harmless
error analysis. Ludwig v. Astrue, 681 F.3d 1047,
1054 (9th Cir. 2012). Reversal “is not automatic, but
requires a determination of prejudice.” Id. A
reviewing federal court must consider case-specific factors,
including “an estimation of the likelihood that the
result would have been different, as well as the impact of
the error on the public perception of such
proceedings.” Id. (footnote and citation