United States District Court, C.D. California
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
HONORABLE KENLY KIYA KATO United States Magistrate Judge
Barbie Sue Jones (“Plaintiff”) seeks review of
the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (“Commissioner” or
“Agency”) denying her application for Title II
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”). The
parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned
United States Magistrate Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636(c). For the reasons stated below, the Commissioner's
decision is REVERSED and this action is REMANDED for further
proceedings consistent with this Order.
April 23, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB,
alleging a disability onset date of January 30,
2014. Administrative Record (“AR”)
at 193-96. Plaintiff's application was denied initially
on September 5, 2013, and upon reconsideration on February 3,
2014. Id. at 80-117, 122-130. Plaintiff then
requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). Id. at 131-36. On December 7,
2015, Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified at a
hearing before the assigned ALJ. Id. at 40-79. A
vocational expert (“VE”) also testified at the
hearing. Id. at 67-78. On January 13, 2016, the ALJ
issued a decision denying Plaintiff's application for
DIB. Id. at 17-39.
March 8, 2016, Plaintiff filed a request to the Agency's
Appeals Council to review the ALJ's decision.
Id. at 16. On May 23, 2016, the Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff's request for review. Id. at
22, 2016, Plaintiff filed the instant action. ECF Docket No.
(“Dkt.”) 1, Compl. This matter is before the
Court on the Parties' Joint Stipulation
(“JS”), filed on April 13, 2017. Dkt. 15, JS.
was born on July 31, 1964, and her alleged disability onset
date is January 30, 2014. AR at 20, 195. She was forty-nine
years old on the alleged disability onset date and fifty-one
years old at the time of the hearing before the ALJ.
Id. at 42, 195. Plaintiff completed two years of
college and has work experience as a sales
associate/distribution clerk and postal worker. Id.
at 61, 91, 207. Plaintiff alleges disability based on
“autoimmune disease, autoimmune condition, lupus,
arthritis, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue,
anxiety/depression, fatty liver disease, asthma, and
sarcoidosis.” Id. at 225.
FOR EVALUATING DISABILITY
qualify for DIB, a claimant must demonstrate a medically
determinable physical or mental impairment that prevents her
from engaging in substantial gainful activity, and that is
expected to result in death or to last for a continuous
period of at least twelve months. Reddick v. Chater,
157 F.3d 715, 721 (9th Cir. 1998). The impairment must render
the claimant incapable of performing the work she previously
performed and incapable of performing any other substantial
gainful employment that exists in the national economy.
Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th Cir.
decide if a claimant is disabled, and therefore entitled to
benefits, an ALJ conducts a five-step inquiry. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520, 416.920. The steps are:
1. Is the claimant presently engaged in substantial gainful
activity? If so, the claimant is found not disabled. If not,
proceed to step two.
2. Is the claimant's impairment severe? If not, the
claimant is found not disabled. If so, proceed to step three.
3. Does the claimant's impairment meet or equal one of
the specific impairments described in 20 C.F.R. Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1? If so, the claimant is found disabled.
If not, proceed to step four.
4. Is the claimant capable of performing work she has done in
the past? If so, the claimant is found not disabled. If not,
proceed to step five.
5. Is the claimant able to do any other work? If not, the
claimant is found disabled. If so, the claimant is found not
See Tackett, 180 F.3d at 1098-99; see also
Bustamante v. Massanari, 262 F.3d 949, 953-54 (9th Cir.
2001); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b)-(g)(1),
claimant has the burden of proof at steps one through four,
and the Commissioner has the burden of proof at step five.
Bustamante, 262 F.3d at 953-54. Additionally, the
ALJ has an affirmative duty to assist the claimant in
developing the record at every step of the inquiry.
Id. at 954. If, at step four, the claimant meets her
burden of establishing an inability to perform past work, the
Commissioner must show that the claimant can perform some
other work that exists in “significant numbers”
in the national economy, taking into account the
claimant's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”), age, education, and work experience.
Tackett, 180 F.3d at 1098, 1100; Reddick,
157 F.3d at 721; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g)(1),
one, the ALJ found Plaintiff has not engaged “in
substantial gainful activity since January 30, 2014, the
alleged onset date.” AR at 22.
two, the ALJ found Plaintiff “ha[d] the following
severe impairments: right knee derangement status-post
arthroplasty, fibromyalgia, obesity, and depression.”
three, the ALJ found Plaintiff 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.”
found Plaintiff had the following RFC:
to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except
she can lift, carry, push or pull 20 lbs. occasionally and 10
lbs. frequently, stand and walk for a total of 2 hours in an
8-hour day and sit 6 hours in an 8-hour day and occasionally
climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. [Plaintiff]
can understand remember and carry out simple work
instructions with no interaction with the public and
occasional contact with supervisors and coworkers.
Id. at 25.
four, the ALJ found Plaintiff is “unable to perform any
past relevant work.” Id. at 31.
five, the ALJ found “[c]onsidering [Plaintiff's]
age, education, work experience, and residual functional
capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in
the national economy that [Plaintiff] can ...